Swing Time by Zadie Smith (EPUB)
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.
Brilliantly written, this novel from Zadie Smith is a mishmash of modern culture and timeless themes. Ideas about female friendship, family, and identity are interwoven with music and dance from pop and musical to African and hip hop. What Smith gets very right in the book is the way relationships between characters are based on their relative power; the way superstar Aimee is a vortex around which all other lives are determined; the power of language, what is said, or how and when speech is withheld; the removal of agency or belonging when all those around you are speaking another language, literal or metaphorical.
Again and again, this leads to miscommunication, misunderstanding, or outright manipulation. Language and power are threaded into each person’s identity and underlines their relative role to each other and within the book as a whole. The narrator may seem to hold the top spot, it is through her eyes that all others are visible, but she isn’t even given a name. It’s an imbalance that illuminates the overarching idea of the novel.