Adverse possession is a concept that rarely fires the imagination of a novelist so we should be grateful to Zadie Smith for highlighting the topic in her latest bestseller NW.
The book tells the story of two West London school friends whose lives diverge, with the more dynamic Natalie Blake going into law.
Eventually installed in prestigious Middle Temple chambers, we find her “making some notes on an arcane detail of property law as it pertained to adverse possession”.
The case demanding Natalie’s attention comes at the high point of a fluctuating legal career that moves from the Inns of Court to a down-at-heel legal aid practice in Harlesden and back again.
I’ll leave it to others to say how likely it is that a barrister who at first seems to be specialising in criminal law would then be grappling with the likes of the Limitation Act 1980.
But anyone familiar with the streets around Chancery Lane will be happy enough with the realism of Natalie’s visits to the Hunterian Museum and the Seven Stars.
NW has various twists and turns in store for her and I don’t think I need to issue a spoiler alert when I say that further exploration of adverse possession is not among them.
For that I would direct Zadie Smith fans, Middle Temple barristers and anyone else with an interest in the subject to Landnet 38 and the latest in our series of articles on the 10-year anniversary of the Land Registration Act 2002 coming into force.
The article reflects on the significance of the legislation for adverse possession, as the previous articles in the series have investigated notices and restrictions and easements and overriding interests.
- NW, published by Penguin Books, is now available in paperback.