Unlock the more straightforward side of Swing Time with this concise and insightful summary and analysis!
This engaging summary presents an analysis of Swing Time by Zadie Smith, which tells the story of two childhood friends who are brought together by their shared love of dance but whose lives follow drastically diverging paths. The narrator’s close friendship with her talented but troubled friend Tracey ends when they are in their early twenties, when Tracey writes her a letter containing a shocking revelation, but the two women remain a part of each other’s life for a long time afterwards. Swing Time is Zadie Smith’s fifth novel, and was longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize. Her other works include the novels White Teeth and On Beauty, and the essay collections Changing My Mind and Feel Free.
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ENGLISH NOVELIST AND ESSAYISTBorn in London in 1975.Notable works:White Teeth (2000), novelNW (2012), novelFeel Free (2018), essay collection
Zadie Smith is a British author who shot to fame at the tender age of 24 after her debut novel, White Teeth, was published to rave reviews and won a slew of awards. A string of critically acclaimed novels, short stories and essay collections followed, including her most recent novel, Swing Time, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize (her second nomination, after On Beauty was shortlisted in 2005). She is also a tenured professor of Creative Writing at New York University.
Smith, who changed her name from Sadie to Zadie aged 14, grew up in Willesden before reading English Literature at Cambridge. Her novels tend to incorporate characters with similar life experiences to herself (for example, much of her fiction is set in north-west London and features characters of British-Jamaican heritage), although she has stated that her work is not explicitly autobiographical. She has been hailed as the literary face of multicultural Britain.
A NON-LINEAR BILDUNGSROMANGenre: novelReference edition: Smith, Z. (2016) Swing Time. London: Penguin Random House.1stedition: 2016Themes: friendship, dance, race, international development, West African society, revenge
Swing Time is Smith’s fifth novel, and her first written with a first-person narrative voice. It is notable for the fact that this first-person narrator remains nameless throughout the entirety of the novel. Also nameless is the West African country in which a large part of the novel is set, although geographical clues (“The river split this finger of land in half throughout its length”, p. 170) strongly imply that it is the Gambia.
The novel tells the coming of age story of two girls, the unnamed narrator and her friend Tracey, who share their mixed-race heritage and their love of dance. Their fluctuating friendship is described throughout the novel, as both women grow and find their own successes and failures. The narrator’s career takes her from London to New York and West Africa, and the chaotically structured novel finds its setting in these three places. As well as moving between these different settings the non-linear narrative jumps between different time periods in the narrator’s life (for the purpose of clarity, the summary below is in broadly chronological order).
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