A cinematic, vivid tale of betterment and progress, this new novel from Zadie Smith, made famous for White Teeth, handles multiculturalism and friendship on a level that will render this an well-talked about title. An ambitious, exuberant new novel moving from north west London to West Africa, this is the tale of two that dream big of being dancers.
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 North-West London to West Africa, it is a high-spirited dance to the music of time.
Wonderfully written, Swing Time juxtaposes modern culture with timeless and universal themes. Smith has clearly fleshed out the relationships, intricately exposing the impacts that they can have; superstar Aimee is a maelstrom around which all of the lives of her other characters are determined. Also, the way in which the narrator’s mother affects Tracey and vice versa with the emails is indeed interesting. Language and power is interwoven into each person’s identity and underlines their relative role to each other. The narrator may be seen to be the most identifiable character, as it is through her eyes that we perceive the likes of Tracey, Aimee and the narrator’s mother, but we are not even disclosed a name.
The novel does meander in detail and veer off, stopping it from becoming a flawless story but as this is all through the eyes of the main character and is perhaps indicative of her nature, veering off from the point. There is a lack of character development in this novel, when you consider the anonymous narrator, and the life events don’t seem to affect the nameless character that significantly, and you almost want it for her, badly.
This is Zadie Smith’s fifth novel and makes for truly rattling reading. No doubt this will be, like her previous work, adapted into a visual format. The different incarnations that we are witness to, aside from the main character of course, are very real, and will make for great cinematic viewing but it is a joy to indulge in these within the literature.
As aforementioned, relativity is key to this novel, and certainly makes it all the more absorbing, with the comparatives adding a richer texture to the book. That relativity becomes all the more interesting when considering a sense of belonging and this is where the novel hits us. The nameless narrator almost becomes appropriate if we look at the novel from this angle, as her anonymity renders her somewhat nomadic and invisible, seeking something almost improbable.