Leah and Michel have been trying for a baby for a year and, as far as Michel is aware, their attempts have been unsuccessful. But Leah is pregnant and hasn’t told her husband because she doesn’t want to have a baby.
Leah’s best friend, Natalie, is a mother of two and a barrister. Her life and the house she shares with her husband are luxurious compared to her meagre upbringing but Natalie is unhappy and has resorted to meeting strangers for sex.
Once a heavy drink and drug user, Felix is now clean after help from his girlfriend and is hoping to sort his life out. He is making a start at turning his life around when he is stabbed in the street.
N-W tells the gritty story of three people living in North West London as they struggle with the lives they’ve ended up with. The book is told in three sections, with Leah’s story first followed by Felix’s and then Natalie’s. I found Leah’s section of the book so difficult to read, which wasn’t the best way to start a book. Most of it was like trying to decipher riddle after riddle as a lot of it made no sense. I wasn’t entirely sure why Leah didn’t tell Michel she didn’t want to have children – as far as I could see, she never once let him know of her complete lack of desire to procreate and simply went along with his plan, dealing with the consequences later. I never warmed to Leah, despite her otherwise good nature.
Felix’s section of the book did improve for me and although I already knew his fate, there was still the question of who had stabbed him and why. I quite liked the character of Felix. He was a young man who had grown up in difficult circumstances and chosen the wrong path but was trying to put things right and improve his life, even if he wasn’t quite strong enough to avoid all temptation. Felix’s story was much easier to read, apart from one short scene that if I could unread, I would.
My favourite section of the book was Natalie’s as I found it refreshing how her story was told in short snippets, detailing events from her childhood, through university and on to the present day. I thought the book was picking up but I was disappointed by the conclusion. There didn’t seem to be much point to the story as a whole, as though we were seeing a short glimpse into three individual’s lives but without any real purpose. There was no conclusion for either Leah or Natalie. What would happen to their marriages now? Would they survive the secrets they had been keeping from their husbands? As for the person who stabs Felix, their identity seemed to jump out from nowhere, to conveniently fit in with the rest of the book.