Zadie Smith – Swing Time Book Review

A disappointing protagonist in a sweeping timescape that takes the reader nowhere!

I don’t have too much to say about Swing Time by Zadie Smith other than the fact that I was thoroughly disappointed. I have seen the light with Zadie Smith’s writing (White Teeth), but Swing Time was quite a miserable read for me. Here’s why:

Swing Time by Zadie Smith – A Quick Review

  • The main protagonist was intensely dislikeable. Aside from being aloof and detached throughout, there is a mean-spiritedness to her which put me off immediately.
  • The (sweeping) narrative was terribly boring. Jumping from childhood to the teenage years to the angsty twenties, there was very little of consequence that happened in the story. Nothing engrossing whatsoever.
  • What a waste of swing! With a title like “Swing Time” Zadie could have danced on the roof with a twanging guitar and jittery passion and trembling feet. Instead, we have a sodden plot with a sodden main character who plods along.
  • Togo or not Togo, that is the question – The insertion of the entire portion on Togo and the main characters distance (despite the colour of her skin) seemed very artificial.

Zadie Smith Swing Time Book Review

What I did like about Zadie Smith’s Swing Time

  • The friend, Tracey, seemed quite alive and a character worth following
  • Similarly, the narrator’s mother, seemed interesting enough. (Although, in her beauty and grace and intellect, I was forced to picture her as Zadie Smith herself!)
  • The younger years, living in council housing, struggling, surviving, laughing, living, loving. That is where the beauty of this novel lies. Shame that the jumping narrative lost it all.

Zadie Smith’s Swing Time was nominated for the Man Booker 2016, and I have to wonder why. I have been plodding through several Man Booker nominated books this year, and it seems that writing that tumbles over itself and leaves the reader either lost or struggling is what the panel like. The chasm between popular fiction and literary fiction is ever-growing, and it is truly a shame.

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