Saturday, February 11, 2017

Swing Time

Swing Time by Zadie Smith 453 pages.

I think that I have read two of Smith's other novels; her debut, White Teeth and her third novel, On Beauty. I remember being quite taken by, and enormously impressed with her first book, and then being scarred forever by the Library's book discussion of her third. I was leading the discussion, nominally, but lost control of the group when an elderly woman wanted to focus on one scene wherein two of the characters engaged in a sex act in which the commenter did not believe people would willingly pursue (despite a wide variety of photographic and video evidence freely available on the internet).

But Swing Time was on the 2016 Andrew Carnegie Medal Shortlist for fiction, and I wanted to get through all of them. So I worked my way through my book club induced trauma and read* the book. I am very glad that I did.
The narrator of this story and her friend Tracey meet at dance class in 1982, and bond because, among other things "Our shade of brown was exactly the same. . .and our freckles gathered in the same area, we were of the same height."  They both love dance, the narrator loves watching dance, movies like the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' film that gives the novel it's title, and Tracey loves to dance. She becomes a professional dancer before her life and her choices interfere with her career. The families of the two girls are opposites though. Tracey's parents are somewhat crazed and chaotic, where the narrator's mother (especially) and father (when he is in his wife's orbit) are more focused and driven. While the later part of the book focuses on the narrator (always unnamed) and her relationship with the American pop star for whom she works, her childhood and Tracey's reverberate throughout the book.
A well-constructed, and absorbing book!

*I actually listened to this while travelling. I downloaded it from our Overdrive collection; it is narrated in an excellent manner by Pippa Barnett-Warner.

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