Swing Time Book Cover

Title: Swing Time
Author: Zadie Smith
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: 2016
Summary: Two brown girls dream of being dancers, but only Tracey has talent. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten. Tracey struggles with adult life, but makes it to the chorus line. Her friend experiences how the one percent live as an assistant to superstar, Aimee.

So Many Words, So Little Story

Swing Time felt like the story that would never end while also being the story I was waiting to actually begin. Within the story of the narrator’s life as friend, daughter, girlfriend, and assistant, there are also lessons in the history of dance, insight into the privilege of being white, rich, and famous, and the universality of the black experience. Although that sounds like a lot to put into one book, while I was reading the book, it didn’t feel like enough time was spent flushing out all these aspects of the story within the overall story arc of the main character. The story switches between the past with the main character’s childhood and the present as she navigates adulthood sprinkled throughout is the celebration of dance. I usually enjoy a story that uses unconventional storytelling like Swing Time does, but it didn’t work for me this time. I just wanted more.

The Name Game

One part of the book I found interesting is the fact that we never learn the main character’s name. She never mentions her own name, and no other person calls her by her name throughout the story. While reading, I wondered if not knowing her name was supposed to make me relate more to the character and feel like everyone could be talking to me. I can say with certainty that I never felt like I was inside the narrator’s shows because I rarely felt sympathy toward the narrator. She often came off as whiny, selfish, and lacking purpose in most things. The other meaning I took from her name not being mentioned was because her sole purpose was to be in service to those in her life, and she is never able to find her own purpose outside of that. As a child, she lived for Tracey. In college, it was her hotep boyfriend. For most of her 20s and early 30s, it was all about Aimee. It is really not until her world starts falling apart that the main character actually starts to look more inward.

Overall Opinion

This was probably not the best book to read as an introduction to Zadie Smith. I have heard nothing but great things about Zadie Smith, so I was primed for a really good read with Swing Time because the book world told me how amazing Zadie Smith’s books are, and I believed them. Although I will not deny Zadie Smith’s writing skills and the story was not the worst thing I’ve ever read, I have to admit this book was kind of a let down for me. However, I am eager to experience another Zadie Smith story and hope for a better experience in my next read.

The Final Grade

Laborious Literature: There were times when I couldn’t get enough of the Swing Time story. Other times, I was struggling to get through chapters. The book was mostly highs, but the lows were sometimes hard to navigate.

Your Turn

So…have you read Swing Time? Are you a fan of Zadie Smith? What are you currently reading? Let us know in the comments! |RL

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