The Diaspora (Book) Wars: London: NW by Zadie Smith & The Lonely Londoners by Sam Sevlon
Posted in Issue #2, The Diaspora Book Wars on January 27, 2018 0 Comments
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First Line of Attack

The first lines of the novel

“The fat sun stalls by the phone masts. Anti-climb paint turns sulphurous on school gates and lampposts. In Willesden people go barefoot, the streets turn European, there is a mania for eating outside. She keeps to the shade. Redheaded. On the radio: I am the sole author of the dictionary that defines me. A good line—write it out on the back of a magazine. In a hammock, in the garden of a basement flat. Fenced in, on all sides.”

Arena of War

The setting and the situation of the story

Setting: Northwest London, modern day.

Premise: Four main characters from four different walks of life amongst a council estate in northwest London.

Personnel on the Battlefield

The main characters

  • Leah: A white woman who works at a and is married to a half Algerian, half Guadeloupean man who wants to have a baby although Leah is now ready.
  • Natalie: Whose real name is Keisha but renames herself Natalie when she becomes a lawyer, she is Leah’s best friend. From a church fearing first generation background and is married to mixed race man who is from Italy and Trinidad. They are a very successful couple although they are unhappily married and Natalie has an affair.   
  • Felix: Jack of all trades who still lives, he has a hard life and is caught up in drugs and violence.
  • Nathan: Used to be the popular boy at school and is now a drug addict. Sometimes seen at the local tube station trying to sell travelcards for moneu

Battle Strategy

The plot and key sub-plots

The four main characters are adults who all live in Caldwell a working class part of northwest London. NW follows how the live among the council estate of their childhoods.  Leah and Natalie are childhood friends who don’t necessarily like each other but are friends out of habit. Natalie and her husband live a comfortable lavish lifestyle but are unhappily married. Felix and Nathan went to school with Natalie and Felix, Nathan is a recovering addict and we see Nath trying to make money quickly and stay faithful to his girlfriend despite being tempted by this old flame.

First Line of Attack

The first lines of the novel

“One grim winter evening, when it had a kind of unrealness about London, with a fog sleeping restlessly over the city and the lights showing in the blur as if is not London at all but some strange place on another planet, Moses Aloetta hop on a number 46 bus at the corner of Chepstow Road and Westbourne Grove to go to Waterloo to meet a fellar who was coming from Trinidad on the boat-train.”

Arena of War

The setting and the situation of the story

Setting:  Northwest London , the 1950s.

Premise: Follows the stories of the first West Indian immigrant life to try and make a life against the backdrop of the harsh reality of 1950s London.

Personnel on the Battlefield

The main characters

  • Moses: The narrator who is incredibly lonely in London
  • Galahad: Arrives in London in Pyjamas and an overcoat but manages to get good jobs
  • Cap: A Nigerian immigrant who arrives in London to pursue a law degree but gets distracted by women and alcohol
  • Tolroy: Came to London to send money back to his family in Jamaica but his family arrives in London so he has to take care of them in the city instead.
  • Lewis: Married to Tolroy’s sister but is jealous and possessive and abuses her

Battle Strategy

The plot and key sub-plots

The novel follows Moses as he acts as the father figure to all the new immigrants who arrive in London. He helps them get jobs, and find suitable housing and tries to keep them out of trouble. The novel follows the immigrants as they try and survive poor housing, romantic relationships with white women and poverty in west London.

Victory Goes To…

The Lonely Londoners!

Sam Sevlon triumphs in this battle for viscerally evoking the juxtaposed feelings of alienation and familiarity experienced by Diaspora communities in London. Both NW and The Lonely Londoners offer a bleak view of London life and highlight the way in which London is a harsh place to be for the poor. Both novels are concerned with history and race and understanding where you come from whether you accept it or not. The characters in The Lonely Londoners and NW struggle with a  sense of displacement, with a heavy focus on racial identity and understanding what exactly it takes to be a Londoner.


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