Nicotine – Nell Zink


Nicotine – Nell Zink

The Last Word Review

Following on from The Wallcreeper and Mislaid comes the third novel Nicotine by Nell Zink for which in my opinion is her best yet. If you pardon the pun you could well find yourself hooked on Nicotine from the start.


There is something unique and rare about Nell Zink and her writing that I have not seen in any other writer, she is rare and mesmerising and with her third novel you begin to see what she is bringing to the literary world and long may this continue.

The story is unfolding before your very eyes in a matter of a few pages and focuses on Penny just as her father has died. Penny had no ordinary upbringing as a child as the opening pages tell the reader. But now Penny has inherited her father’s house in New Jersey but nothing here is straight forward. The house is occupied by squatters who seem to be fighting for their right to smoke. The house they have given the house a name. ‘Nicotine’ what happens next through the story is one of interest as Penny starts to meet the inhabitants of ‘Nicotine’ and their reason for their protest. Penny starts an emotional love relationship with not just one but a number of the young men who are living in the house and smoking. But then there is Matt she has to consider him as well.

There is great humour in the mind-set of the author it is sharp and at times witty. The story starts in 1985 and fast-forwards to 2016 and is at times somewhat topical. There are moments in Zink’s writing that out of nowhere she will throw something at you that will leave you in laughing out loud for a while. The beginning of the story as you witness Penny with her dying father is something beautiful. In fact, it is so well written into the story I felt I was intruding into personal grieving moments as Penny watched her father slip away.

All the characters you meet in Nicotine are different some unforgettable but maybe there is a little too many. Some of the themes covered may not be to everyone’s taste but Zink brings something to her writing that you may not discover in other modern writers and is not afraid to confront the reader with themes of modern day life. Pleasant or not.

Nell Zink is a talent that should be rejoiced she is unique and fresh and I for one looks forward to seeing what she brings to the literary next.

Thank you to Sam Missingham for the advanced review copy.

Nicotine by Nell Zink is published by 4th Estate Books and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.

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