Summary and book reviews of Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Swing Time

by Zadie Smith

Swing Time by Zadie Smith X
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Nov 2016, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2017, 464 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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...

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 North-West London to West Africa, it is an exuberant dance to the music of time.

One

If all the Saturdays of 1982 can be thought of as one day, I met Tracey at ten a.m. on that Saturday, walking through the sandy gravel of a churchyard, each holding our mother's hand. There were many other girls present but for obvious reasons we noticed each other, the similarities and the differences, as girls will. Our shade of brown was exactly the same - as if one piece of tan material had been cut to make us both - and our freckles gathered in the same areas, we were of the same height. But my face was ponderous and melancholy, with a long, serious nose, and my eyes turned down, as did my mouth. Tracey's face was perky and round, she looked like a darker Shirley Temple, except her nose was as problematic as mine, I could see that much at once, a ridiculous nose - it went straight up in the air like a little piglet. Cute, but also obscene: her nostrils were on permanent display. On noses you could call it a draw. On hair she won comprehensively. She had spiral ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

In general, I found the narration to be claustrophobic and felt that additional points of view would open the novel out. For despite its geographical and chronological sprawl, Swing Time feels insular, which saps the power of any potential messages about how race, money, and class still define and divide us. The title's reference to a Fred Astaire musical suggests that music and dance should be linking elements, but I couldn't see those connections working out. The novel takes on a lot of heavy themes but even in its nearly 500 pages can't quite pull them together.   (Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Full Review (793 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. [A] powerful and complex novel…Rich and absorbing, especially when it highlights Smith's ever-brilliant perspective on pop culture.

Booklist
Starred Review. Swing Time is an acidly funny, fluently global, and head-spinning novel about the quest for meaning, exaltation, and love. Excitement always surrounds much-lauded Smith's books (NW, 2012), and this tale of friendship lost and found is going to be big.

Library Journal
Starred Review. A rich and sensitive drama highly recommended for all readers.

Kirkus
Starred Review. Moving, funny, and grave, this novel parses race and global politics with Fred Astaire's or Michael Jackson's grace.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Blackface in Performance

Early in Zadie Smith's novel Swing Time, the narrator shows a friend a clip from the 1936 Fred Astaire musical by the same name. She doesn't have her glasses on the first time she watches it so is startled when she realizes that Astaire performs a solo dance referred to as the "Bojangles of Harlem" in blackface.

Music and dance had been a big part of the narrator's and her best friend Tracey's childhood: they met at dance lessons and liked jiving to music videos and watching Hollywood musicals. Various later scenes revolve around music: they work together on the set of a Guys and Dolls production; the narrator performs karaoke to a song from Gypsy on her thirtieth birthday; and, after a long estrangement, the narrator sees Tracey acting ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Zadie Smith

If you liked Swing Time, try these:

  • Peculiar Ground jacket

    Peculiar Ground

    by Lucy Hughes-Hallett

    Published 2019

    About this book

    More books by this author

    The Costa Award-winning author of The Pike makes her literary fiction debut with an extraordinary historical novel in the spirit of Wolf Hall and Atonement - a great English country house novel, spanning three centuries, that explores surprisingly timely themes of immigration and exclusion.

  • The Music Shop jacket

    The Music Shop

    by Rachel Joyce

    Published 2018

    About this book

    More books by this author

    A love story and a journey through music, the exquisite and perfectly pitched new novel from the bestselling author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Let It Bang
    Let It Bang
    by RJ Young
    Every interracial love story is an exercise in complications. R.J. Young and Lizzie Stafford's ...
  • Book Jacket: A Spark of Light
    A Spark of Light
    by Jodi Picoult
    The central premise of A Spark of Light involves a gunman holding hostages within the confines of a ...
  • Book Jacket: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
    An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
    by Hank Green
    As one half of the extremely popular YouTube duo "Vlogbrothers" (the other half being his brother ...
  • Book Jacket: Waiting for Eden
    Waiting for Eden
    by Elliot Ackerman
    Elliot Ackerman's latest novel, Waiting for Eden, follows Marine Eden Malcom as his death ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Unsheltered
by Barbara Kingsolver

A timely novel that explores the human capacity for resiliency and compassion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Ladder to the Sky
    by John Boyne

    A seductive, unputdownable psychodrama following one brilliant, ruthless man.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Paris Echo
    by Sebastian Faulks

    A story of resistance, complicity, and an unlikely, transformative friendship.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

A library is a temple unabridged with priceless treasure...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I Ain't O U T F L S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.