Somewhere in Northwest London stands Caldwell housing estate, relic of ’70s urban planning. There are five identical blocks, deliberately named:
Hobbes, Smith, Bentham, Locke, and Russell. If you grew up here, the plan was
to get out and get on to something bigger, better. Thirty years later,
ex-Caldwell kids Leah, Natalie, Felix, and Nathan have all made it out, with
varying degrees of success—whatever that means. Living only streets apart, they
occupy separate worlds and navigate an atomized city where few wish to be their
neighbor’s keeper. Then one April afternoon a stranger comes to Leah’s door
seeking help, disturbing the peace, and forcing Leah out of her isolation.
From private houses
to public parks, at work and at play, in this delicate, devastating novel of
encounters, the main streets hide the back alleys, and taking the high road can
sometimes lead to a dead end. Zadie Smith’s NW brilliantly depicts the
modern urban zone—familiar to city dwellers everywhere—in a tragicomic novel as
mercurial as the city itself.
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