MLA Platinum Award Press Release

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

    Genres

  • 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" articles
  • 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 $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • 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...continued

Full Review (793 words).

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

(Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

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" articles
  • 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 $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • 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" articles
  • 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 $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Zadie Smith

If you liked Swing Time, try these:

  • Girl, Woman, Other jacket

    Girl, Woman, Other

    by Bernardine Evaristo

    Published 2019

    About this book

    "Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible." ―Booker Prize citation

  • 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.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Between Two Fires
    Between Two Fires
    by Joshua Yaffa
    It was thought by many that the fall of the Soviet Union would transform Russia from a totalitarian ...
  • Book Jacket: This Is Happiness
    This Is Happiness
    by Niall Williams
    Niall Williams's This Is Happiness offers an extraordinary portrait of a particular moment in the ...
  • Book Jacket: In the Dream House
    In the Dream House
    by Carmen Maria Machado
    In the introduction to In the Dream House, Carmen Maria Machado (a National Book Award finalist for ...
  • Book Jacket: Father of Lions
    Father of Lions
    by Louise Callaghan
    Our readers have given high marks to Father of Lions by Louise Callaghan. Out of 21 reviewers, 18 ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Cartier's Hope
    by M. J. Rose

    A Gilded Age gem of ambition & betrayal from the author of New York Times bestseller, Tiffany Blues.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Small Days and Nights
    by Tishani Doshi

    A captivating and clear-eyed story of two sisters, set against the backdrop of modern India.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Evening in Paradise
by Lucia Berlin

"Berlin's new book is a marvel, filled with deeply touching stories about lives on the fringes."—NPR

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win The Adventurer's Son

Publishing Soon!
The Adventurer's Son

"A brave and marvelous book. A page-turner that will rip your heart out."
--Jon Krakauer

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

I I A Broke, D F I

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 the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.