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Swing Time

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  6,341 Ratings  ·  886 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.

Hardcover, 453 pages
Published November 15th 2016 by Hamish Hamilton
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Emily May
Nov 07, 2016 Emily May 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
Diane S ☔
Oct 08, 2016 Diane S ☔ 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
Jan 16, 2017 karen 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
Nov 04, 2016 Emma 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
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
Dec 14, 2016 Seemita rated it liked it
[Originally appeared here:]

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
Dec 16, 2016 Snotchocheez 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
Ron Charles
Nov 09, 2016 Ron Charles 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
Nov 16, 2016 Sandra rated it really liked it
*religiously counts the days until November*
Jessica Woodbury
Oct 05, 2016 Jessica Woodbury 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
Nov 30, 2016 Jenna 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
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
Brandon Forsyth
Sep 02, 2016 Brandon Forsyth 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
Zadie Smith does have a marvellous way with words and tells a great story. In the first part of the book we follow two young girls growing up on the estates of northwest London in the 1980s. They meet at dance school where, as the only two brown skinned girls in the class, they gravitate together. However, it is their love of dance and particularly the old school dancers like Fred Astaire and even Michael Jackson that cements their friendship as they spend many afternoons and weekends watching f ...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
Zadie Smith writes brilliantly about culture - family, neighborhood, country, racial, pop, global - the ambivalence of friendship, the disparity between the haves and have nots, the random nature of where life takes you in this story of two brown girls' relationship over 24 years. Our unnamed narrator and her friend Tracey meet in dance class when they are 7 in the mid-1980's and bond over old Fred Astaire movies and the tap-dancing Nicholas brothers. Zadie Smith writes with precision, humor and ...more
Dec 22, 2016 Ace rated it liked it
I may be going against the grain here but I found this book a bit tedious and couldn't wait for it to end. What I did enjoy was reminiscing about the 80s and 90s and some Australiana and I really like the writing but I didn't feel any warmth for the narrator (does she have a name?) or Tracy or Aimee. I loved the mother.
Jan 09, 2017 Rincey marked it as dnf
DNF @ 40%

Usually I don't write reviews of books I DNF but this book started out SO STRONG for me, I thought I was going to love it. But then a couple of sections in, it changes and I felt like it lost all purpose. I wanted to DNF but I also wanted to keep going because I thought that it might pick back up again in future sections and go back to what I loved in the beginning.

I contacted a friend who finished the book and expressed similar feelings in her GR review & asked her some general qu
Jan 04, 2017 Judy rated it it was amazing
I loved reading this! It is about long-time friendship between two mixed race girls in London from the 70s to now. It is about girls and their fathers. Overall, it is about women's lives as mothers and daughters, how to be a creative woman in modern times, finding a sense of self, and how privilege or the lack of affects women.

I don't believe we ever know the narrator's name, but we get to know her well because we see the world through her eyes. She has what we call in our house, the curse of s

Description: 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 quit
Jun 12, 2016 Camille marked it as to-read
after NW, my hopes aren't high but I gotta believe
Loring Wirbel
Oct 06, 2016 Loring Wirbel rated it really liked it
Zadie Smith has turned her joyful but jaundiced eye upon pop music and dance, so the first thing we can declare without fear of contradiction is that a good time will be had by all. Of course, the book is partially autobiographical, in both its Jamaicans-in-London neighborhoods and in Smith's own divorced parents and her love for 1930s swing. Of course, it will touch upon all the subjects such as cultural appropriation that a good radical 40-year-old Londoner needs to bring up. But Smith's power ...more
Jan 09, 2017 Udeni rated it it was amazing
Underwhelmed by White Teeth and NW1, I pleasantly surprised by this gem of a book. The writing is so light, the story so compelling that you could enjoy Swing Time at the level of chick-lit: a female friendship gone wrong or a thinly-veiled exposé of Madonna. But serious issues are at play: feminism, racism, class. Smith's skill is in balancing these big themes with small pleasures: a comic birthday party that ends in disgrace; a haunting description of a village at nighttime.

Some readers found
Jan 03, 2017 Donna rated it it was ok

2.5 stars.

This book started off as 4 stars for me and slowly I started chipping away at that rating because things weren't working for me. I will say though, I enjoyed the author's use of words. She has a great vocabulary and she created some vivid strokes.

Mostly, I didn't care for the toggling around in time. I'm not a fan of that format, unless it is well edited and gripping. I didn't feel that here. It took me out of the story every time. I liked the idea of these two friends, but they both s
Maya B
This was my first ZS book and I actually found her writing style to be unique. She has a nice and easy flow with the pen. Sadly, in this story I found smith to be overly descriptive about EVERYTHING.

In this story we are introduced to Tracy and Aimee. They are 2 childhood friends and smith tells the story of their lives from childhood to adulthood. I would love to ask this author what made her tell their stories through a unnamed protagonist. In my opinion I felt it took away from my ability to
Nov 09, 2016 Krista rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa, 2016, arc
The director asked his interviewer to roll a clip from the movie Swing Time, a film I know very well, I watched it over and over as a child. I sat up tall in my seat. On the huge screen before me Fred Astaire danced with three silhouetted figures. They can't keep up with him, they begin to lose their rhythm. Finally they throw in the towel, making that very American 'oh phooey' gesture with their three left hands, and walking off stage. Astaire danced on alone. I understood that all three of the
Ann Girdharry
Oct 18, 2016 Ann Girdharry rated it really liked it
This was my second Zadie Smith, so I was well prepared for the slow pace of the prose and the detailed meandering through the lives of several characters.
We follow the friendship of two girls - they grow up in one of the poorer parts of London, both have dreams of fame and dance success and of breaking out of the confines of racial stereotyping.
The issues of racism are well explored and expanded to include West Africa, where the main character ends up working on a development project spearhead
Riley Redgate
Swing Time has so much to say that I feel like any attempt to review it, or reduce it in any way, is somewhat doomed to fail, but here goes, I guess -

First of all, to be clear, I loved it. The relationships of its nameless protagonist are beautifully drawn, often both exhilarating and profoundly depressing within a page or two, and I felt all of them deeply, especially her relationships with place. There's the New York she's insulated from by her sorta-soulless/all-consuming job as a pop star's
Angharad Redden
+ Our main character/narrator is a POC and so is Tracey, the main focus of this story. The story takes place in North-West London, where our characters meet and spans across West Africa as the story develops. Our protagonist is unnamed throughout the book as she tells the story of her experiences with childhood friend, Tracey and then a celebrity she works for when she's older called Aimee. I see the reasons for having her unnamed, however, this stopped me from becoming emotionally connected to ...more
Jan 12, 2017 Gail rated it really liked it
At times I found Zadie Smith’s Swing Time a maddening read. The pacing of the storytelling from its nameless narrator was sometimes a swing and a miss for me--like what I did there?
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Literary Fiction ...: * Discussion: Swing Time 78 123 2 hours, 27 min ago  
Youth Muses' Femi...: January's Book: Swing Time by Zadie Smith 1 9 Jan 04, 2017 02:58PM  
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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.

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“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.” 5 likes
“I often wondered: is it some kind of a trade-off? Do others have to lose so we can win?  •” 4 likes
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