Swing Time

Swing Time

eBook - 2016
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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"--
Publisher: New York, New York : Penguin Press, [2016]
ISBN: 9780399564314
0399564314
Branch Call Number: PR6069.M59
Characteristics: 1 downloadable text file

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From Library Staff

International Fiction: Tracey and Aimee, two black English girls, dream of becoming dancers. Only one will succeed.

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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WVMLlibrarianCathy Sep 13, 2018

The complicated relationship between the narrator and her friend / frenemy Tracey is central to this book, and makes it one of Zadie Smith's best works yet. Fans of Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend will enjoy this novel, which also explores the main character's life from a perspective seldom found. I loved reading about a life defined by the platonic relationship between two girls (and later women), particularly in a contemporary context.

n
NedSu
Jul 29, 2018

I enjoyed reading this book about mixed race and socio economics, written on a personal level. The narrator was never particularly insightful, but let interesting things happen to her. The most compelling plot point was the time in Africa. I had just re-read Poisonwood Bible by Kingsolver, which touch on some of the same points of 'helping' the needy Africans, without seeing the simplicity and dignity with which the natives live. Zadie Smith tells a good story, although I can't be sure of her point. It might be that life gets in the way while you pursue your dreams, and if you don't have dreams then you don't have even that anchor in the storm.

b
beetlebaily
May 11, 2018

Excellent book. Well worth reading. Great writing.

DBRL_IdaF May 03, 2018

This is a novel about identity. What gives us our identity - class? race? home country? relationships? How do we define ourselves? It's about people searching for their places in the world. It's also a book about money and power and how they influence and shape lives.

An unnamed narrator examines her complicated childhood friendship with Tracey, a girl who shared her love of dance. Tracey was, by far, the more talented and dedicated of the two. As the girls grew up, their lives diverged. The narrator spends years working as an assistant to a rock megastar, globetrotting around the world, only occasionally making it back home. But still, decisions and events in her life are examined under the light of what Tracey would have made of it.

Smith's writing is beautiful and she captures many human dynamics wonderfully. "...devoting all time and energy to somebody else's existence, to somebody else's desires and needs and requirements. It's a shadow life and after a while it gets to you. Nannies, assistants, agents, secretaries, mothers -- women are used to it."

WPLBookClub Feb 01, 2018

The Armchair Books and Whistler Public Library Book Club read Zadie Smith's Swing Time in January 2018. What a divisive pick! Of the 16 people in attendance (including the facilitator), only 7 or 8 of us could finish (and really enjoyed) this novel - the others either abandoned the book after a few chapters, or struggled through as much as they could as our January meeting loomed. The group's consensus was that, while Swing Time is well written, it needed a thorough edit - we agreed that there was probably a tight, 200 page novel trapped within this 450 page story. That being said, we had a GREAT discussion, as we always do when the group is polarized.

We particularly enjoyed discussing:

- the nameless narrator - this really hit home how passive and aimless the main character was. For the most part, our group thought that Tracey was far more interesting than the narrator!
- the murky genre that is "literary fiction" - what makes these books such critical darlings, when the general reading public finds them so challenging? It often seems that novels that win literary awards are difficult to read/somewhat alienating to most readers.
- mother/daughter relationships and female friendships. Our nameless narrator was rendered more interesting simply through her proximity to her mother, to Tracey, and to Aimee.

p
pterry25
Jul 02, 2017

kind of a soap opera. But I can see why some have enjoyed this work. Touches upon some interesting areas. It would be interesting to find out the back story for some of the plot points (adopting an African baby, starting a school).

x
xiaojunbpl12
Jun 13, 2017

I was shadowing the narrator (protagonist), in her projection, to watch over various characters performing in a life-long musical, a distance kept between their stage and my seat.
Mesmerizing, juxtaposed with unexpected temporal and spatial effects, from time to time, I only managed to steady my foothold while my thoughts scattered about, hardly swing in tempo.

After Epilogue, I revisited Prologue, I found the rhythm. An individual scene, which had appeared to be less probable or even absurd on the spot at the time, has become an integral part of a coherent whole. There are so much for me to reflect upon, a unique reading experience is what I treasure first.

r
rcplrozkutler
May 17, 2017

Some of the deeper aspects of the book explores corrupting influences – both of fame and by abusing money in efforts to solve social problems. Perhaps the corrupting influence of doing the wrong work? My book group was split on it three of us liked it very much, three found it too uneven and a couple didn’t make it.

s
Squid_1
May 17, 2017

It was disjointed, disconnected, and did not grab my interest.

u
uncommonreader
May 13, 2017

A novel about gender, race and class told through the story of a friendship between two girls whose lives diverge as adults. Interesting, if a little long.

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