09/04/2012 10:54 am ET Updated Sep 04, 2012

The Book We're Talking About This Week: 'NW' By Zadie Smith

"NW" by Zadie Smith
Penguin, $26.95
September 4, 2012

What is it about?
The book is about four Londoners' adult lives outside their childhood home of Caldwell. The book takes places in Northwest London, hence the name "NW."

Why are we talking about it?
Zadie Smith's past work has been strong and brilliant. She is an acclaimed literary writer, so we couldn't help but pick it up.

Who wrote it?
Zadie Smith is the author of "White Teeth," "The Autograph Man," "On Beauty," and the essay collection "Changing My Mind." She won the Orange Prize in 2006 for "White Teeth" and was also included in Time magazine's "TIME 100 best English-language novels from 1923-2005" list for the book as well.

Who will read it?
Fans of Zadie Smith, and the literary circle she inhabits (Jonathan Franzen, David Foster Wallace, Jennifer Egan).

What do the reviewers say?
New York Times: "'NW' and its paper-doll-like characters do a disservice to this hugely talented author and her copious gifts."

The Daily Beast: "For all Smith’s careful attention to place and to world-building, all of these techniques still feel self-conscious, making her attempts to wrest meaning from the way these characters weave in and out of each others’ lives feel contrived. Disappointingly, Smith runs out of steam toward the end; the final scene between Natalie and Leah seems curiously staged and plotted in a novel that prefers to meander."

The Guardian: "The real mystery of 'NW' is that it falls so far short of being a successful novel, though it contains the makings of three or four."

Impress your friends:
The NW refers to the postal code for Northwest London. There isn't an NE (it was abolished in 1866).

Opening line:
"The fat sun stalls by the phone mast."

Notable passage:
"She talked out her various conspiracy theories. These Felix did not interrupt. He wanted to be happy. There was one about the towers. There was one about the moon landings. The Virgin Mary was black. The planet was getting colder. 2012 would be the end of everything. She seemed to have spent the past few years in Internet cafes around the country, gathering this information."