Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

about book: (from Goodreads)

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.

my thoughts:

Disappointed.  I was very disappointed.  Here's why:
  1. The story was not at all what I expected.  I thought I would reading about two best friends who are obsessed with dancing and grow up being competitive with one another in the dance world.  Well, that didn't happen.  Instead, I read about two girls who met in dance class when they were just kids.  One was better than the other.  She became a dancer until life got in the way.  The other one became a PA to a celebrity, because she couldn't figure out what to do with her life.  Their friendship deteriorated and then rekindled in the end (sort of).  
  2. All of the characters were just awful.  They were beyond selfish, annoying, and unbearable to read about.   I didn't like any of them.  Our unnamed narrator was the worst.  She never seemed able to grow up.  Her character was stunted throughout the whole story.  I just wanted to shake some sense into her.  She was beyond predictable and dull.  In fact, her best friend ( Tracey ) was much more interesting to read about and she was such a stereotype (to a T).  I would much rather have read about her and I couldn't stand Tracey.  She's the one who became a dancer, but then wound up having too many kids to continue dancing.  She's the one who had a terrible childhood filled with abuse (in every form) and grew up into an awful woman.  Yet, she's the one I wanted to read more about.  
  3. Smith tackles all sorts of issues in this book: race, class, mother-daughter relationship, friendship, gender, celebrity culture, colonialism, etc.  That's what I love about Smith - she goes all in and really explores subjects within the context of her fiction.  Except, this time she took on too much and was unable to fully appreciate the importance of each topic.  There was just too many issues she wanted to write about, and none of them got the attention they deserved.  Instead, she touched on each topic very lightly and then never mentioned them again.  It was frustrating and very disappointing.  
  4. Normally when Smith writes about a place, I am there.  I can see the city, smell it, taste it, and feel it.  This time round, I didn't feel London, NYC, or West Africa.  Instead, I felt jilted.
  5.  The story was predictable in every which way.  I couldn't help but get bored, because I just knew what would happen next.  Yawn.
  6. The back and forth time line was exhausting.  Nothing ever seemed to happen, so going back and forth was too much for too little.  It seriously tired me out.
  7. My expectations were not met.  I've loved Smith's writing in the past - White Teeth and On Beauty are just brilliant stories.  They are simply excellent in every way.  I didn't care for The Autograph Man, but chalked it up to a bout of the sophomore slump that all authors seem to get.  However, I expected a lot from Swing Time.  I expected the same brilliance Smith has shown before.  And I just did not get it from this new book.  Instead I found myself reading a book that went nowhere.  It took me three days to get through it, because I kept thinking about giving up on it.  Now, I'm all for slow-going, character-driven novels, but this one just fell flat.  It did not deliver and I was really disappointed.
I will read Zadie Smith again, but I think I'll wait for quite some time before I do.  What about you?  Have you read Swing Time?  What did you think?

And now, I'm off to try and find a new book to read.  Happy reading!!


Ti said...

Wow, wow, wow. This book is getting all kinds of buzz but I've steered clear of it because it just didn't sound like my cup of tea. I can see now from your review that it's probably good I skipped it. I wonder why it's getting so much press. It's on so many lists right now.

Nadia said...

Ti, I know! Everyone seems to love it, except me. Normally, I'm a huge fan of Smith's. Her writing is always so sharp and intelligent. This time it was lacking so much that I just couldn't even enjoy it. Such a disappointment. I think everyone is raving because its Zadie Smith and she is considered to be that good that everyone just assumes whatever she writes is brilliant. Well, they are wrong this time. Definitely good that you skipped it.

Lark said...

Yikes. I was thinking about reading this book this year, but now I'm not sure I want to because it doesn't sound like it's the story I thought it was going to be. Thanks for the heads up!

Nadia said...

Lark, yep. Yikes indeed. Its not at all what you think its going to be about, which really disappointed me. Thanks for stopping by :)

OnDBookshelf said...

I'm so glad that I read this review. I did not like this book at all, and I thought it had to be me based on all the raves I'd read. I agree with you completely, so thanks!

Nadia said...

OnDBookshelf, yes!! So glad that I'm not the only one. I thought that maybe I was missing something since everyone seems to LOVE this book. I guess not - they just don't realize its not a good book :)