NW

Christian Lorentzen writes:

A bit wobbly and lopsided by design, NW is a hotchpotch in five parts. The book begins with a woman called Shar scamming a woman called Leah Hanwell out of £30, then in a sort of Joycean pastiche, follows Leah for the rest of the summer. The next section is a series of comic set-pieces tracking a man called Felix on the late summer day when he ends up being fatally stabbed in the street. Shar and the murderer, Nathan Bogle, happen to be in cahoots, and both of them went to secondary school with Leah. The third section – about twice as long as the first two, in 185 numbered chapters, some a few pages, some just a sentence, all with titles that joke, pun, allude or explain (a bit like the ‘Aeolus’ chapter in Ulysses) – traces the life of Leah’s best friend, from her childhood in the early 1980s, when she was called Keisha Blake, to the present, when she goes by the name Natalie, and leaves her about to stumble on the scene of the murder. The last two sections are brief codas: one tracks Natalie and Nathan on a walk from Willesden across Hampstead Heath to Hornsey Lane; in the final part Natalie visits Leah and they piece things together.

(LRB 8 November 2012)

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