Zadie Smith’s funny and energetic new novel Swing Time tells the story of childhood friends Tracey and the book’s unnamed narrator; Tracey is a talented dancer, the narrator loves dance but is not gifted at it. They both live in a northwest London housing estate that the narrator eventually leaves and Tracey doesn’t. This deceptively simple story is the root of a layered, clever, and thought-provoking mediation on, well, lots of things. Smith’s primary concern is how identities can blend and mix. But Swing Time also touches on pop stardom, the perils of postcolonial charity, slavery tourism, sexy disco music, blackface in Hollywood musicals, and more. The amazing thing about Zadie Smith is how sharp and funny she is, even when the book has such a wide range of interests. Plus, Swing Time features Smith’s first first-person narrator, which leads to a complicated yet limited perspective that ties it all together while leaving open some intriguing questions. The end result, much like White Teeth, On Beauty, and NW before it, is funny, compulsively readable, and cleverly critical of today’s world.
Recommended by Danny