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.
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.
Excellent book. Well worth reading. Great writing.
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."
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.
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).
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.
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.
It was disjointed, disconnected, and did not grab my interest.
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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