Zadie Smith. Penguin, $26.95 (416p) ISBN 978-1-59420-397-8
The reader first meets Leah Hanwell at her most vulnerable (some might say gullible): at home, when the doorbell rings and in tumbles a desperate, unknown but not unfamiliar woman, pleading for money, which Leah provides. Although this incident soon fades into an awkward anecdote shared later at awkward gatherings, it introduces the framework of Smith's (White Teeth) excellent and captivating new novel, in which the lines dividing neighbors from strangers are not always clear or permanent. The book takes place in NW London, where characters intersect and circumvent one another's lives and, in the process, expose their ethnic distinctions and class transformations, their relationships and their secrets. Leah's childhood best friend Natalie Blake (formerly Keisha Blake) eventually becomes the primary focus and the contrast between the two women allows for some of the book's most compelling insights, namely the inevitability of vs. the disinterest in becoming a mother, which Natalie has done and Leah decisively has not. The book's middle section introduces Felix Cooper, a friend of neither woman, but whose fate will affect them both. Smith's masterful ability to suspend all these bits and parts in the amber which is London refracts light, history, and the humane beauty of seeing everything at once. Agent: Georgia Garrett, Rogers, Coleridge and White. (Sept. 4)
Reviewed on: 09/10/2012
Release date: 09/04/2012
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Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-241-96348-7
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Hardcover - 295 pages - 978-0-670-06905-7
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Hardcover - 448 pages - 978-0-7531-9214-6
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