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Swing Time

Cover of Swing Time

Swing Time

A New York Times bestseller
Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
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.
Tracey makes it to the chorus line but struggles with adult life, while her friend leaves the old neighborhood behind, traveling the world as an assistant to a famous singer, Aimee, observing close up how the one percent live.
But when Aimee develops grand philanthropic ambitions, the story moves from London to West Africa, where diaspora tourists travel back in time to find their roots, young men risk their lives to escape into a different future, the women dance just like Tracey—the same twists, the same shakes—and the origins of a profound inequality are not a matter of distant history, but a present dance to the music of time.
A New York Times bestseller
Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
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.
Tracey makes it to the chorus line but struggles with adult life, while her friend leaves the old neighborhood behind, traveling the world as an assistant to a famous singer, Aimee, observing close up how the one percent live.
But when Aimee develops grand philanthropic ambitions, the story moves from London to West Africa, where diaspora tourists travel back in time to find their roots, young men risk their lives to escape into a different future, the women dance just like Tracey—the same twists, the same shakes—and the origins of a profound inequality are not a matter of distant history, but a present dance to the music of time.
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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Zadie Smith is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, and NW, as well as a collection of essays, Changing My Mind. Swing Time is her fifth novel.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 1, 2016
    At a dance class offered in a local church in London in the early 1980s, two brown girls recognize themselves in one another and become friends. Tracey has a sassy white mum, a black father in prison, and a pink Barbie sports car. The other girl, the narrator of Smith's (NW) powerful and complex novel, remains unnamed. Although she lives in the same public housing as Tracey, she's being raised among books and protests by an intellectual black feminist mother and a demure white father. As with Smith's previous work, the nuances of race relations are both subtle and explicit, not the focus of the book and yet informing every interaction. The girls both love dancing, but this commonality reflects their differences more than their similarities. Whereas Tracey's physical grace is confident and intuitive, the narrator is drawn to something more ephemeral: "a dancer was a man from nowhere, without parents or siblings, without a nation or people, without obligations of any kind, and this was exactly the quality I loved," she thinks. The book tracks the girls as they move in different directions through adolescence and the final, abrupt fissures of their affection; it also follows the narrator into adulthood, where she works for a decade as the personal assistant to a world-famous (white) pop star named Aimee. In this role, she's able to embody what she admired about dancers as a child: she travels constantly, rarely sees her mother, and has lost touch with everyone other than her employer. Once Aimee begins to build a girls' school in an unnamed Muslim West African country, the novel alternates between that world and the London of the girls' youth. In both places, poverty is a daily struggle and the juxtaposition makes for poignant parallels and contrasts. Though some of the later chapters seem unnecessarily protracted, the story is rich and absorbing, especially when it highlights Smith's ever-brilliant perspective on pop culture. Agent: Georgia Garrett, Rogers, Coleridge and White.

  • AudioFile Magazine Zadie Smith's writing takes center stage in this exceptional novel of tenuous friendships, racial and gender politics, and the complexity of family relationships. Smith's language etches precise incidents, characters, and places, all heightened by Pippa Bennett-Warner's appealing husky voice and spot-on narration. Two black girls meet, recognize themselves in each other, and form a bond. The unnamed narrator and Tracey both love to dance, but when competition rears its ugly head, a love-hate relationship develops. As the girls become women and move on in their lives, Bennett-Warner's delivery reflects gives all the characters indelible personalities. She provides just the right nuances for the girls, their mothers, and the self-involved rock star the narrator works for. Don't miss this wonderfully written, convincing story, expertly delivered by Bennett-Warner. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine
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    Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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Swing Time
Swing Time
Zadie Smith
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