I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Published by Hamish Hamilton on November 15th 2016
Source: Audiobook provided by Libro.fm
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, about 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 northwest London to West Africa, it is an exuberant dance to the music of time.
The writing is good, and the story was interesting- the audioook was well narrated. I would have liked it more if the main character hadn’t been so… I don’t know, she was like a plastic bag floating in the wind most of the book, in the shadow of her amazing (but selfish) mother and her amazing (but selfish) best-frenemie Tracey- I listened to the audiobook so I’m not sure that’s how it’s spelled… in fact it took me longer than it should have to realize that the main character never gets a name. Which, honestly, seemed fitting. She never really makes any real decisions until the end, when she kind of burns down her life, and then the book ends just when she starts to become a real person.
Here’s what I really liked: Loved the dancing! I really wish there had been more of it. I loved the movies the MC would watch, studying dance. I wish we had “seen” more of Tracey’s dancing career. I loved the stuff with the mc’s activist mother, who was such an interesting character, even if she wasn’t the best mother or partner. The insights into race and poverty in Great Britain and West Africa were thought provoking, and I especially liked the, albeit brief, mention of cultural appropriation.
Possible Spoilers Ahead:
In another author’s hands Tracey and her mom could have just ended up cartoonish, instead Smith really gives them the complexity they deserve. The Aimee chapters were less interesting, although I do think Smith did a good job of showing the vast divide between the haves and have nots with Aimee’s crew in West Africa, and how out of touch you can become when you have that kind of wealth (like Aimee wanting to get all the students laptops when they really needed books and paper and basic essentials).
Here’s what I didn’t like: Tracey’s sexual abuse is mostly just hinted at and never really discussed. A lot of stuff is brought up and never really resolved. So many of the characters want and long for things and then just don’t act on it. I honestly enjoyed the characters who made poor decisions (Tracey, Aimee, and pretty much every other female character that wasn’t the MC) to those who just float through life *cough* Lammond *cough*. A lot of issues are brought up and never revisited or expanded upon, causing me to feel at as loose ends as the MC.
Stop the Clock:
Overall, I liked the book. The audiobook was great because the narrator nails the accents and voices of all the diverse characters. It might not be Smith’s best work, but it’s worth the read- although I’m totally recommending the audiobook version.
Swing Time gets a Midnight Book rating of: