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 neighbourhood behind, travelling 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.
NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS
Swing Time is the story of two childhood friends growing up on the wrong side of town. A novel about identity, race, origin, friendship and music.
Smith’s novel explores the relationship to two mixed-race childhood girlfriends from London, the paths they take in their lives, and the intersectionality of race, class, gender, culture, politics and religion. Thought provoking and richly drawn, Swing Time delivers a dramatic and satiric romp through love, life and dance.
A captivating story, pulsing-with-life characters, and a fierce commitment to all that people are, and all that human society, sometimes bullies, sometimes coaxes, them to be.
Zadie Smith is extremely skilled at building and developing complex characters. In this novel, she delineates the long term friendship of two girls, both who want to be dancers. From this starting point, Smith has crafted a multilayered novel that is both intimate and broad ranging in its scope.