Betsy Talks NW

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Betsy, a long-time member of the Voyage Out, has been kind enough to allow us to post her email conversation about Zadie Smith’s NW.

NW was the first book we read as part of our Contemporary Female Writers of England Trilogy. The second was Pat Barker’s Life Class. We will be talking about the third, Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body, on the 26th of this month at BookPeople. Join us.

Friend:

Not sure what just happened there.  I still want to talk about this one with you.  I couldn’t get past the first CD.  I am obviously missing something on this.  Would love to hear what you thought and why you liked it.

Betsy:

I am a fan of books where the style and language change throughout the book.  I don’t know if that’s what people mean when they talk about experimental writing, but it is what I mean when I say that.   It was a story in which I never quite knew how things fit together until the end.  In the book, that change was visual, so I knew the first section was the choppiest and took more time to understand who and what the author was trying to convey with it.  If you were listening to it, I could see how the whole book like that would feel daunting.  
 
The second section of the book about Felix was more traditionally written and I actually found that to be less interesting.  She made me like Felix, but, like the writing, he was an ordinary part of life in the NW.  I think it was a good glimpse into the history and everyday life of the area.  
 
Keisha took up much of the last part of the book.  Again the writing style was different and added to the feeling of the character.  Always trying working towards something, but never quite satisfied.  I think the series of short stories/chapters throughout her section kind of made you feel what she was feeling. 
 
Nathan was sprinkled throughout each of the sections, not getting his own, but seaming it all together.  Though, I guess his sections could be the last few pages of the book.  I didn’t actually know the book was about four people until I went to book club since Nathan didn’t get his own writing style, but I can see how he was used to ground each of the characters to their common past.  
 
The title was about an area of London and she made that place real for me.  When I think about the book, I think about the estates as a character.  The thought “You are who you are because of where you come from” kept repeating itself to me.  I found it interesting how different each person was, how many paths were taken from a common start, but how connected everything continued to be.  
 
OK.  Hopefully, you will give it another try.
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