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Swing Time

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  62,767 ratings  ·  5,558 reviews
'Smith's finest. Extraordinary, truly marvellous' Observer
'Superb' Financial Times 'Breathtaking' TLS 'Pitch-perfect' Daily Telegraph
'A tale of two girls who meet in a West London dance class... A page-turner that's also beautifully written ' Glamour
'There is still no better chronicler of the modern British family than Zadie Smith' Telegraph

Paperback, 453 pages
Published July 6th 2017 by Penguin (first published November 15th 2016)
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Average rating 3.57  · 
Rating details
 ·  62,767 ratings  ·  5,558 reviews

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Emily May
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, 2016, botm, arc
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
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Diane S ☔
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
Violet wells
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: dancing whirling dervishes
Recommended to Jaidee by: the cosmos
Shelves: five-stars-books
5 "universal, benevolent, interconnected" stars !!!

The Bronze Award Read of 2018 (third favorite read)

Dear Zadie I love you !!

I am not sure how this review will turn out because of my astonishment. I continue to be surprised by my astonishment of Ms. Smith's work. I should know by now that Zadie (in my mind we are on a first name basis) will deliver a piece of literature that will tantalize, satisfy, teach and also help me reflect on both my inner and outer world. Zadie takes me by the hand a
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
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
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
Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

Sep 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
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.
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
da AL
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The accolades garnered by Smith made me excited to read this. Without revealing the story, those stellar notices made me press on despite how the first quarter of it is hard to warm to.

Toward the middle of it, the story became more compelling. My hope that this would be an all-time fave soared. Here was brilliant writing studded with genius perception! The author, I marveled, takes no prisoners! Everyone/everything/everywhere gets stripped naked of sentimentality and tossed into the fire of trut
[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
Jessica Woodbury
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
Ron Charles
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
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
Dec 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
May 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
*religiously counts the days until November*
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
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
“That autumn, in my first term at my new school, I found out what I was without my friend: a body without a distinct outline. The kind of girl who moved from group to group, neither welcomed nor despised, tolerated, and always eager to avoid confrontation. I felt I made no impression.”

The narrator has no name, and as she tells us her long story, it seems that she has been an unmemorable person, attached sequentially to a lot of self-important people, sometimes being ignored or taken advantag
Helene Jeppesen
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
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
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Book Club: Swing Time 1 3 Oct 29, 2019 09:26AM  
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Play Book Tag: Swing Time - 1 star 12 42 Jul 12, 2019 12:37AM  
Play Book Tag: Swing Time by Zadie Smith - 3 stars 7 26 Nov 29, 2018 12:12AM  
Annie's Feminist ...: April Book Pick - Discussion 1 7 Mar 22, 2018 12:50PM  

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Zadie Smith is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, NW, and Swing Time, as well as two collections of essays, Changing My Mind and Feel Free. Zadie was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002, and was listed as one of Granta's 20 Best Young British Novelists in 2003 and again in 2013. White Teeth won multiple literary awards including the James Ta ...more

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