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Swing Time

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  26,583 Ratings  ·  3,163 Reviews
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.

Dazzling
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Hardcover, 453 pages
Published November 15th 2016 by Hamish Hamilton
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Emily May
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: arc, modern-lit, 2016, botm
This is my second Zadie Smith book and I find myself disappointed once again. I saw a comment somewhere that summarized my feelings on Smith's novels: she should write less, say more.

Smith is, in some ways, a fantastic writer. Her social commentary is witty and insightful, her detailed and complex characters drive her work, her little observations about human nature ring true. But oh my, does she waffle on about everything. She brings themes of race, gender, colonialism, capitalism, celebrity cu
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karen
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
this is a three and a half star that i am unapologetically rounding up to four.

is it zadie smith's best book?
far from it.

a great book is like an egg - it is round and firm and full of burning life-bits held in place by a narrative design both delicate and strong enough to sustain its beating heart.

but this book, if you will permit the metaphor, is an egg slightly scrambled. the larger story is lost in the specificity of particular moments that never seem to adhere into a coherent narrative inten
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Diane S ☔
Oct 07, 2016 rated it liked it
My first Zadie Smith and perhaps not the best one to have started with. The prose itself was fine but the story left me cold. It started promising enough, our narrator and her friend Tracy, two brown girls dream about being dancers. Our narrator, however, has flat feet and little talent for dance, though she can sing. Tracy is the one with dance talent and her acceptance into a dance school with serve to start the separation of our two friends.


Forward to the future, our narrator is an assistant
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Violet wells
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Some novels are brilliant all the way through and the ending is of no elevated consequence; with others the ending is all important and can either make it or kill it. This for me falls in the latter category. There was a point about half way through where I felt this was going out of focus. That Smith had assembled an exciting and topical panorama of material but that her storytelling wasn’t quite doing it justice. In short, not for the first time, I had the feeling that she’s a better writer th ...more
Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

Emma
Sep 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Brilliantly written, this novel from Zadie Smith is a mishmash of modern culture and timeless themes. Ideas about female friendship, family, and identity are interwoven with music and dance from pop and musical to African and hip hop. What Smith gets very right in the book is the way relationships between characters are based upon their relative power; the way superstar Aimee is a vortex around which all other lives are determined; the power of language, what is said, or how and when speech is w ...more
Matthew
Aug 02, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobody!
Nope . . . not for me . . .

• Drags on . . . and on . . . and on . . .
• Disjointed and confusing plot
• One-dimensional characters
• Randomly preachy (and not in a way that made me think)
• Bizarre and gratuitous sex stuff (I don’t mind sex at all in books if it advances the plot or even if it is part of a cheesy romance and is there to titillate the reader. In this book, it is just weird)
• Not very clearly delineated time jumps
• Events that don’t really make a lot of sense
• Lack of resolution
• I wa
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Hannah
I am conflicted: while the language is impressive and there were plenty of parts that I truly enjoyed immensely, the overall reading experience was uneven and a bit of a dissappointment for me. I was super pleased to receive an arc of this book as Zadie Smith is one of those authors whose work I have intended to get to at some point, sooner rather than later. Now I am not so sure anymore if this was the best way to start reading her.

"Swing Time" is a story told from the perspective of an unnamed
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Trish
Wow. This huge, powerful novel is so minutely observed that readers can be forgiven for occasionally missing the forest for the trees. Sex, race, and class are backdrop here, setting and makeup for half-a-life of self-abnegation performed on a world stage. Dichotomies between first world/third world value sets, the insular self-preserving life of huge celebrities, the influence of money on impulses of every kind, the debts we owe another, how generosity manifests, who “family” really is— these l ...more
Hugh
Sep 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Zadie Smith can be brilliant and frustrating in equal parts. This book certainly doesn't lack ambition, it is always readable and entertaining and parts of it are excellent, but once again I was left feeling this is not the great work that such a talented writer should be capable of, and for me none of her subsequent novels have matched her debut White Teeth.

To start with the positives - I really enjoyed the first part in which the unnamed narrator describes her childhood friendship with Tracey.
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Maxwell
Nov 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: i-own-it, botm, 2017
This was my 3rd attempt at a Zadie Smith book, and my 2nd time finishing one. I've come to the conclusion that I might just not be intelligent enough for her books.

This has that quality you see when you look at fine art and think, "I understand it's special and important, but I just don't fully understand it." And that's fine. I can read a story like this—one with really natural writing with characters that are well developed, but maybe with a plot that just loses you and themes that are obvious
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Seemita
Dec 07, 2016 rated it liked it
[Originally appeared here: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/li...]

There is something about every life: ripe with memories, rife with punctures, crowded yet distinct, deceptively omniscient but a puzzle to its only custodian. Zadie Smith’s narrator in ‘Swing Time’ attempts to hold this fleeting, substantial thing in her hand and poke it for its secrets over a good 35-40 years.

This is a story primarily about a brown girl in London, whose life arcs diverse places, people and emotions, keeping, so
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Snotchocheez
Dec 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

I'm trebly daunted to write a coherent review of Zadie Smith's Swing Time. A) It's hard to be objective when I've got a serious crush on Ms. Smith's writing style (only a select handful of authors can make me swoon just by their effortless sentence construction, and she's one of them). B.) Novels with racial dynamics at their core (particularly those written from a black perspective about the white world around them) certainly pique my interest, but my inability to put myself completel
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Jessica Woodbury
Oct 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc, authors-of-color
It is hard when you really love an author and their book just doesn't really work for you. Especially when the premise of examining female friendship was so promising.

I am not sure what exactly didn't work, the early chapters went well, though the structure jumping around held me back from connecting strongly with the characters early on. The second major story arc comes late and never really worked for me at all. The "Aimee" chapters lack the loveliness of the "Tracey" chapters, which may well
...more
Ron Charles
Nov 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Madonna? Beyoncé? Angelina Jolie?

Which pop star inspired Zadie Smith to create the celebrity who bends the universe to her will in “Swing Time”?

But that’s hardly the most interesting question raised by this thoughtful new novel, which moves across the years and oceans — from London and New York to West Africa. This is a story at once intimate and global, as much about childhood friendship as international aid, as fascinated by the fate of an unemployed single mother as it is by the omnipotence o
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Jenna
Nov 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Oh, man. What a letdown. Awarding a Zadie book a lackluster rating elicits a very uncomfortable and unfamiliar feeling from me, sort of like going to the polls and finding you've just accidentally cast your vote for the opposite candidate than intended. (Not that I expect any voting or poll-related similes to have any great resonance in fall 2016 USA.... Also, that was just metaphorical speaking; you can bet I triple-checked my vote for accuracy before submitting it this month!...which already f ...more
Barry Pierce
'Swing! Dig the rhythm! Swing! Dig the message!' - 'Swing' from Bernstein's Wonderful Town

Possibly Zadie Smith's most divisive novel to date, Swing Time is a tale of two brown girls, both dancers, dreaming of being the Ginger to someone's Fred. Both girls, Tracey and our unnamed narrator, grow up on the estates of North London (or, as Smith herself puts it, a North London of the mind). Our narrator lives with her black activist mother, she is something of a mix between Assata Shakur and Diane Ab
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Sam
Nov 03, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-reads
"I saw all my years at once, but they were not piled up on each other, experience after experience, building into something of substance - the opposite. A truth was being revealed to me: that I had always tried to attach myself to the light of other people, that I never had any light of my own. I experienced myself as a kind of shadow."

This quote from Zadie Smith's Swing Time is very early in the novel, and for me calls out the difficult choices and construction that led me to give the work a
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James
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great novel and I think one of the strongest (if not the strongest) of Zadie Smith’s already impressive body of work.

The story works on many levels and takes in multifarious themes, which although are generally familiar territory for Zadie Smith, are approached in what feels like a very focussed, new and intelligent way.

There is so much in this novel, it is difficult to know where to start, challenging to encapsulate – but in an attempt to try and convey… This is a story of friendship,
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Julie
Swing Time by Zadie Smith is a 2016 Hamish Hamilton publication.

I picked this book out while reading through some of 2016’s award nominees, eager to read outside my comfort zone for a while.

The story begins with the childhood friendship between two ‘brown girls’ who forge a strong bond, despite their difference in upbringing and approach to life.

Tracey is a talented dancer, while her unnamed friend dances to the beat of a different drummer, so to speak.

As we follow the paths these two embar
...more
Monica
Great book! I won this in a goodreads giveaway. This was my first Zadie Smith novel. It won't be my last. There is more to this Swing Time than it seems. The novel is ostensibly about two girls growing up in London with dreams of dancing. A coming of age story. But it's much more than that. This book is a thoughtful discussion of isms and cultural disconnects. Smith's writings cumulatively addressed racism, sexism, feminism, multiculturalism, classism, socialism, colonialism, altruism, exoticism ...more
Sandra
May 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
*religiously counts the days until November*
Rebecca Foster
Smith’s fifth novel spans 25 years and journeys from London to New York City and West Africa in tracing the different paths two black girls’ lives take. The narrator (who is never named) and Tracey, both biracial, meet through dance lessons at age seven in 1982 and soon become inseparable. The way this relationship shifts over time is the most potent element of the novel, and will appeal to fans of Elena Ferrante. The narrator alternates chapters about her friendship with Tracey with chapters ab ...more
Marie
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: london
A sweeping multi-layered novel that reads like a dance through childhood into adulthood, across cultures, exploring race, class and gender issues. At the heart of this novel is the friendship between two “brown girls” growing up in public housing estates but in school with a largely white community in London. They see each other at dance class and are immediately drawn to each other, to the same tone of skin, similar but opposites. They are opposites in that one has a white obese doting mother t ...more
Jesse
To my mind the allusion of the title—to the beloved Astaire/Rogers RKO musical from 1936—is much more than a resonant reference to the protagonist’s lifelong passion for the classic Hollywood movies, but actually signals the overall structure and spirit of the book: this a novel of movement and rhythm and not precision, of giddy expansiveness and not meticulousness.

And as anybody who watches and loves musicals know, imperfection is just part and parcel of the form: that single bummer song in a
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This book took me a while to read because I took breaks from it to read other things. The fact that I found it so easy to put down is probably not a good sign, and I kept coming back to it because everyone kept saying how good it was. It ended up on a lot of year-end best-of lists. Zadie Smith herself is well-respected and an excellent speaker and purveyor of all things feminist. I kept feeling like I was supposed to like this novel more than I actually did.

Part of it was the storytelling techni
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Helene Jeppesen
Nov 29, 2016 rated it liked it
While reading "Swing Time" - my first novel by Zadie Smith - I felt conflicted. Some parts of it I loved and I could really appreciate the beauty of the characters' story and the writing. Other parts felt dragging to me, and while they were not unimportant they didn't get the attention from me that they maybe needed.
Basically, this is a story of growing up, identity, facing toxic persons as well as learning about yourself and your place in the world. I liked how it deals with so many diverse to
...more
Brandon Forsyth
Mar 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
There's a lot going on in the Queen of Letters' latest; thoughts on belonging, of being authentic, of what makes a good parent or friend or community; a lot of interweaving of the timeline, and musings on the way we perceive time; and a fair bit on race, on the way it separates and/or unites and/or is defined. The copy provided on my ARC says "ambitious", and I think it's fair to use that adjective, as fair as to say the whole thing never really achieves its lofty aspirations. It's still Zadie S ...more
Michelle Turner
*National Book Critic Circle Award Finalist for Fiction*
*2017 Finalist, Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction*
*2017 Tournament of Books Longlist*


Zadie Smith’s newest novel sensation, Swing Time, is multilayered and rich. More than what the title suggests Swing Time is not only about dance but about shifting through time itself. As the novel progresses the pendulum of time swings back and forth from the narrator’s childhood to her passage into adulthood. It is fitting that the narrato
...more
Mary
Nov 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2016
I remembered my own classrooms, dance classes, playgrounds, youth groups, birthday parties, hens nights, I remembered there was always a girl with a secret, with something furtive and broken in her, and walking through the village with Aimee, entering people’s homes, shaking their hands, accepting their food and drink, being hugged by their children, I often thought I saw her again, this girl who lives everywhere and at all times in history, who is sweeping the yard or pouring out tea or carryin ...more
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2522
Zadie Smith is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, and NW, as well as a collection of essays, Changing My Mind. Swing Time is her fifth novel.

Visit www.zadiesmith.com for more information.
More about Zadie Smith...
“She measured time in pages. Half an hour, to her, meant ten pages read, or fourteen, depending on the size of the type, and when you think of time in this way there isn’t time for anything else.” 21 likes
“A truth was being revealed to me: that I had always tried to attach myself to the light of other people, that I had never had any light of my own. I experienced myself as a kind of shadow.” 21 likes
More quotes…