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

by Zadie Smith (Author)

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1,216629,620 (3.65)112
Member:EfEh
Title:Swing Time
Authors:Zadie Smith (Author)
Info:Hamish Hamilton (2016), 464 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:***
Tags:borrowed, England, friendship, fiction, hardcover

Work details

Swing Time by Zadie Smith (2016)

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English (59)  Dutch (2)  All languages (61)
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
Zadie Smith´s novel is written from the perspective of an unnamed thirtysomething female narrator who grows up in a working-class neighborhood of London with her white father and Jamaican mother. Her best friend until young adulthood is another biracial girl named Tracey, who is raised by a single mom and occasionally visited by an absentee dad. Both girls attend dance classes as children, and they share eclectic obsessions with dancers ranging from Ginger Rogers to Michael Jackson. The two 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. The novel follows the gradual breakup of their friendship and the narrator’s early adulthood when she works as a personal assistant for a famous pop star who wants to found a school for girls in West Africa.
The novel is easy to read, but still has a lot of twists and covers interesting topics, touching on a variety of issues ranging from purpose, destiny, fame, to self-worth, all driven by relationships between family and life-long friends. I thoroughly appreciated her choice to interweave stories across from time periods of their lives.
For a large majority of the novel, the narrator exists in juxtaposition to Tracy, yet Tracy dominates every scene she appears in. I did not fully understand what the author wanted to tell by putting these two girls in the center especially because the narrator stays quite undefined. ( )
  Wassilissa | Oct 5, 2018 |
This is a story about identity, friendship, family relationships, race relationships, and more. I think Ms. Smith has tried to pack too much into this novel. At times, I was very engaged with it; at others, it seemed to be going nowhere -- or sending a message about an important issue rather than furthering the story. Some of the characters were well developed; others seemed almost like parodies (Aimee; the mother). As one reviewer has said, I was more impressed with the writing itself than the story.

This is my fourth book by Zadie Smith. In my opinion, she has never equaled her excellent first book, White Teeth. ( )
  LynnB | Aug 30, 2018 |
An unnamed narrator grows up in London with her best friend Tracey. Both love the dance. Our narrator has a deep love of golden-age classics like Astaire, but grows up to be a personal assistant to Amy, a narcissistic Madonna-like pop star, who naively wants to play Lady Bountiful in Africa. Meanwhile, Tracey has real talent for dance and pursues a West End career, but cannot escape her class/caste and is bitter against everyone, definitely including our narrator.

I enjoyed the relationship between the two girls, and how it bled into their adult lives even though they didn't see each other. I also really enjoyed the portrayal of the narrator's feminist/activist/politician mother. She was my favorite character in the book, actually, and our narrator did not fully appreciate her, as kids don't, I suppose.

Finally, I must say I dislike the unnamed narrator strategy because it makes it hard to write a review. ( )
  CasualFriday | Aug 23, 2018 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 59 (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
Quotations
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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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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