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Swing time by Zadie Smith

Swing time (original 2016; edition 2016)

by Zadie Smith

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1,1395810,311 (3.66)110
Title:Swing time
Authors:Zadie Smith
Info:[London] Hamish Hamilton 2016
Collections:Your library

Work details

Swing Time by Zadie Smith (2016)

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» See also 110 mentions

English (56)  Dutch (2)  All languages (58)
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
Really wish we had quarter stars, I'd round this up to 3.75. I liked this, but don't have a lot of intelligent comments to make about it. I will read more of her work, though. ( )
  gossamerchild88 | Mar 30, 2018 |
The first few chapters I loved.The characters and time setting were so real and not too many degrees off my own school experiences. And I think that might be why I lost touch with it after a while - it had begun so strong, and I believed in it all - and then when things weren't how I remembered them to be (as this really wasn't my story), I felt things immediately turned from authentic to coming out of reader immersed mode and questioning everything. I found myself pausing and silently mouthing " really?". Amiee - the Kylie / Madonna character - was one I just couldn't buy into. Maybe it's because we saw everything through the narrators melancholic, sometimes bitter eyes and ears. Saying that, the friendship between the girls / women is brilliantly captured- each challenging themselves, each other, the system and finding their own way to make life work for them and their tribe. ( )
  Mitch1 | Mar 25, 2018 |
I struggled with this book; it took me nearly two months to finish it. No resolutions at the end. Still, I enjoyed Smith's writing and will give her another try. ( )
  dariazeoli | Mar 21, 2018 |
The term “frenemies” could have been coined to describe the long relationship between the book’s unnamed first-person narrator and Tracey, drawn together by being the only mixed-race children in a dance class. They meet, play, pirouette, and study in council housing in North London.Tracey is the talented one, accepted into a selective performing arts program, her future seemingly assured.
“Unnamed, unsure, neither black nor white, the narrator is fittingly indistinct in this brilliant novel about the illusions of identity,” said Annalisa Quinn in an NPR review. The story swings back and forth between present-day events and flashbacks about the girls’ childhood, their growing up, and their sporadic encounters over the years. Later the narrator sees her in minor roles in classic musicals—Guys and Dolls, Show Boat, ironically—before her career fades from view.
The dance theme is present throughout, a universal uniting characters through time and across cultures: “a great dancer has no time, no generation, he moves eternally through the world, so that any dancer in any age may recognize him. Picasso would be incomprehensible to Rembrandt, but Nijinsky would understand Michael Jackson.” Late in the book, dance even becomes a weapon.
The narrator, meanwhile, has landed what seems like a plum job: assistant to Australian pop star Aimee. Aimee and her team divide their time between London and New York. Aimee’s peripatetic lifestyle, kids and nannies in tow, means perpetual rootlessness for the narrator, a disconnect not just from her past—her childhood friend, her parents—but also from a future of her own.
Aimee gets the notion to establish a girls’ school in rural West Africa, and some of the novel’s most heartfelt passages involve the narrator’s yearning to connect with the Africans and the disconnect between the rich pop star and her entourage and the people she wants to help. Aimee’s motives are genuinely kindly, but implementing them on the ground is far more complicated than she imagines.
The narrator certainly is a perceptive observer, but will she grab hold of life and learn to dance to her own tune? ( )
  Vicki_Weisfeld | Jan 15, 2018 |
Zadie Smith is brilliant. Not perfect, but brilliant. Swing Time is much better than NW, at least as good as White Teeth and maybe as good as On Beauty. ( )
  Sean_Murphy | Dec 23, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 56 (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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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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Average: (3.66)
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