“Smith’s thrilling cultural insights never overshadow the wholeness of her characters, who are so keenly observed that one feels witness to their lives.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“A sweeping meditation on art, race, and identity that may be [Smith’s] most ambitious work yet.” —Esquire
A New York Times bestseller • Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction • Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize
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.
Zadie Smith's newest book, Grand Union, published in 2019.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
We fell into a trance each time we picked up Zadie Smith’s novel about female friendship, racial identity, and the magic of dance. Swing Time is narrated by a biracial Londoner from grade school into adulthood. Self-conscious and curious, she scrutinizes her own belief systems and motivations, as well as those of the most important figures in her life—her parents, her brash childhood friend Tracey, and a pop superstar named Aimee. Smith’s heroine gets wrapped up in major drama, but she stays cool and watchful…not unlike her author.
At a dance class offered in a local church in London in the early 1980s, two brown girls recognize themselves in one another and become friends. Tracey has a sassy white mum, a black father in prison, and a pink Barbie sports car. The other girl, the narrator of Smith's (NW) powerful and complex novel, remains unnamed. Although she lives in the same public housing as Tracey, she's being raised among books and protests by an intellectual black feminist mother and a demure white father. As with Smith's previous work, the nuances of race relations are both subtle and explicit, not the focus of the book and yet informing every interaction. The girls both love dancing, but this commonality reflects their differences more than their similarities. Whereas Tracey's physical grace is confident and intuitive, the narrator is drawn to something more ephemeral: "a dancer was a man from nowhere, without parents or siblings, without a nation or people, without obligations of any kind, and this was exactly the quality I loved," she thinks. The book tracks the girls as they move in different directions through adolescence and the final, abrupt fissures of their affection; it also follows the narrator into adulthood, where she works for a decade as the personal assistant to a world-famous (white) pop star named Aimee. In this role, she's able to embody what she admired about dancers as a child: she travels constantly, rarely sees her mother, and has lost touch with everyone other than her employer. Once Aimee begins to build a girls' school in an unnamed Muslim West African country, the novel alternates between that world and the London of the girls' youth. In both places, poverty is a daily struggle and the juxtaposition makes for poignant parallels and contrasts. Though some of the later chapters seem unnecessarily protracted, the story is rich and absorbing, especially when it highlights Smith's ever-brilliant perspective on pop culture.
My favorite book!
I love this book
LONG GOOD READ
Prepare to split this book into many long, good reads. The narrative is easy to follow. It covers memory and the living in a real way that most fiction cannot do.
A tale about two girls, one a bully and one sort of sad and pathetic. Life continues on and they remain so. It's all a bit boring. The end.