Words meander and shape-shift across the page; characters come and go.The novel’s best moments aren’t its fractured bits — in fact, it slows when it comes to these onomatopoeic sections that read like the city speaking.Although initially she sustained two voice registers, she admits that her re-voiced accent has subsumed her earlier more working class one.
Willesden was a big, colorful, working-class sea; Cambridge was a smaller, posher pond, and almost univocal; the literary world is a puddle.’ Clearly there is suggested here a transitional set of affiliations, even a shift of identity perhaps, both of a particularly English kind. In so doing, part of my focus will be Smith’s evocations of Englishness, both cultural and literary aspects, as expressed in her writing generally and in certain specific ruminations about her life.
We get a sweeping view of Natalie’s — nee Keisha Blake — life, from the dramatic beginning of her friendship with ’s other protagonist, Leah (then-Keisha rescued her from drowning in a swimming pool), to the narrative’s unresolved present.
Natalie is the successful one, who ascends from modest Caribbean-immigrant beginnings to a powerful lawyer job, beautiful family, and expensive home.
The discovery distracts us from Natalie’s home drama, and we never learn to what extend her carefully constructed life crumbles around her.
We are left wondering about the fate of this character, and considering the philosophical implications that Smith has placed around her, it feels as if the novel is unresolved on this issue as well.In short, the novel’s strengths spring mostly from the writer’s use of traditional elements, and from continuity — not on its attractive, yet unmastered use of narrative fissures.The effect of this style is a searching, indecisive quality.Her husband finds out her secret, and the book ends as he begins to pull away from her emotionally. After her husband confronts her, Natalie embarks on an all-night bender with Nathan Bogle, a shadow character who attended school with Leah and Natalie, and now is a neighborhood addict.Through their night together, she becomes convinced that he had a part in the death of Felix, the subject of the book’s second section.It’s as if the novel (or Smith) never decides to what extent — or how exactly — a striver like Natalie should be rewarded for her sin of ascendancy.Here, the question the novel seems to be posing is, what should become of a Natalie, or — if we return to Smith’s essay — a Zadie (who herself started out, in Northwest London, as Sadie)?The questions posed by may be, it has the potential to mark a significant point of transition in her career.Perhaps it is the beginning of a new direction for the author. Regardless, who isn’t excited to see where she goes?I picked it up in college, along with the unabridged Clarissa and a taste for port.Ultimately, Natalie’s story suggests a certain type of domestic tragedy, as her internal struggles propel her toward wayward behavior—in this case, comic internet-arranged sex romps.