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Swing time by Zadie Smith
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Swing time (original 2016; edition 2016)

by Zadie Smith

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1,298679,162 (3.65)113
Member:s0038962
Title:Swing time
Authors:Zadie Smith
Info:[London] Hamish Hamilton 2016
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:2018

Work details

Swing Time by Zadie Smith (2016)

  1. 00
    Brothers and Keepers by John Edgar Wideman (Othemts)
  2. 00
    Number 11 by Jonathan Coe (hairball)
    hairball: Maybe it's because I read these in a row, but in my mind, they seem to fit together.
  3. 01
    Purity by Jonathan Franzen (shaunie)
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Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
Possibly my favourite Zadie Smith novel. So much goodness sprayed across a canvas that stretches from Kilburn to Manhattan via Africa. This is a novelist at the height of her powers from tiny and intimate portraits of a church hall dance class to a Madonna-type global superstar and her entourage.

Specific and sprawling and Franzenesque in all the best ways. ( )
  asxz | Mar 13, 2019 |
I listened to the audio, so brilliantly read by Pippa Bennett-Warner that I looked her up. Turns out she's also in my favorite binge-watching series, Harlots. So it seems I am officially a fan! She had to deliver quite a few accents, and I think her only misstep was making all the Americans sound alike. But I think only an American would notice that. This was a big, baggy book, overflowing with incidents and characters, giving a many angled take on race and privilege in London, New York and West Africa. At first I expected the book to be the story of two mixed race, working class London girls, following them from childhood into their thirties, but one girl's life completely swamped the other and took the book in a very different direction, as she became a personal assistant to a Madonna-like superstar. I suppose this was inevitable, since the story is told in the first person by this character - who I just realized is never named! It feels to me like there is too much in Swing Time for one novel - I'd have liked to see it split in two, with each book written in the first person by one of the girls. This wouldn't cut anything out of the first book, but would give us a deeper look into Tracey. ( )
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
We knew that they, in their own time, had feared school, just as we did now, feared the arbitrary rules and felt shamed by them, by the new uniforms they couldn’t afford, the baffling obsession with quiet, the incessant correcting of their original patois or cockney, the sense that they could never do anything right anyway.

The highest point achieved by this novel was its ambition to be a The Ground Beneath Her Feet, though I'm confident that wasn't the author's intention.(Nor am I sure Mr. Rushdie would appreciate my appropriation of his novel as a slur)

This novel is about women, about movement and dance, about confidence in both senses. It is also a mess. I was hoping for more of the mother-daughter dynamic, instead we have celebrity activism. Opinion appears rather polarized about Zadie's work. I regard White Teeth and NW as essential and most of the other fiction as flawed. I remain in ZS's corner and am hoping for better. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
Sometimes a star rating just won't do and finishing the book, Swing Time, is just such an occasion.

I found the writing to be exceptional, as in all the Zadie Smith books I have read. The story elements I found to be very cleverly developed.

Still, overall - if I ask myself - "am I glad I read this" the answer is just an ambivalent shrug. I guess it just didn't engage my imagination on anything other than a superficial level. Perhaps the fault is mine. I don't know. But I know I can't rate this book or particularly recommend it.
  yhgail | Feb 20, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
For its plot alone, Swing Time makes for truly marvellous reading. The narrator’s journey, from gritty estate to glittering globe and back again, is the juicy stuff of which film adaptations are made. And the music! If one were to make a playlist of the references, one would have a greatest hits of black music: from Gambian drummers to Cab Calloway to Michael Jackson to Rakim. What makes Swing Time so extraordinary are the layers on which it operates; beneath its virtuosic plotting lies the keenest social commentary.
 
Some of the narrator’s experiences in Africa with Aimee — combined with her efforts to understand shifting attitudes toward race in music and dance — are meant to raise larger questions about cultural appropriation, and the relationship between the privileged West and the developing world. But these issues do not spring organically from this clumsy novel — a novel that showcases its author’s formidable talents in only half its pages, while bogging down the rest of the time in formulaic and predictable storytelling.
 
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Epigraph
When the music changes, so does the dance. -- Hausa proverb
Dedication
For my mother, Yvonne
First words
It was the day of my humiliation
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Two brown girls dream of being dancers—but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, about what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It's a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either.
Dazzlingly energetic and deeply human, Swing Time is a story about friendship and music and stubborn roots, about how we are shaped by these things and how we can survive them. Moving from northwest London to West Africa, it is an exuberant dance to the music of time.
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"An ambitious, exuberant new novel moving from North West London to West Africa, from the multi-award-winning author of White Teeth and On Beauty Two brown girls dream of being dancers--but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It's a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either. Tracey makes it to the chorus line but struggles with adult life, while her friend leaves the old neighborhood behind, traveling the world as an assistant to a famous singer, Aimee, observing close up how the one percent live. But when Aimee develops grand philanthropic ambitions, the story moves from London to West Africa, where diaspora tourists travel back in time to find their roots, young men risk their lives to escape into a different future, the women dance just like Tracey--the same twists, the same shakes--and the origins of a profound inequality are not a matter of distant history, but a present dance to the music of time"--… (more)

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