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Summary

Dazzlingly energetic and deeply human, Swing Time is a story about friendship and music and true identity, how they shape us and how we can survive them. Moving from Northwest London to West Africa, it is an exuberant dance to the music of time.

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, what constitutes a tribe or makes a person truly free. It's a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early 20s, never to be revisited but never quite forgotten, either....

©2016 Zadie Smith (P)2016 Penguin Books Ltd.

What listeners say about Swing Time

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Smith's best yet with perfect narrator

I choose Swing Time because all my friends were raving about it. They were right! This is a gripping, perfectly-paced read which explores our main character's challenging relationships with her mother, employer and - above all - her childhood best friend. There is a toxic dimension to all these key female relationships but Smith excels in showing the complicity and complexity of each. Bennett-Warner provides the perfect reading (especially of our insecure main character) and I hope this will be the first of many recordings for audible.

5 people found this helpful

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Parallel Lives

Would you consider the audio edition of Swing Time to be better than the print version?

I think that, in my own particular case, this is an irrelevant question. Audible suits for commuting and print versions for when I devote my full attention to the book.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The unnamed narrator's mother was my favourite character. I could sympathise with the idea put across in describing her that time spent not learning was wasted time - even if this means time spent with family and friends.

Have you listened to any of Pippa Bennett-Warner’s other performances? How does this one compare?

This was the first of Pippa Benne-Warner's narrations I've heard but I was very impressed. She seemed effortlessly to be able to supply many contrasting accents: English - of varied age, class, colour, gender; American, Brazilian, Australian, West African.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Neither laughing nor crying resulted - perhaps that's being a man, or simply listening while commuting. However, I was engaged with the characters and with the many difficulties and ambitions in their lives. I experienced a life-affirming sense of life being described as it is and not as one would like it. This was especially put across in describing the difference between a feasibility study as opposed to engaging with life once in the imagined country with all the real life people, customs, weather, light, foods, smells etc.

Any additional comments?

This was the first Zadie Smith book I'd 'read' and will explore further. I saw a TV adaptation of White Teeth a few years ago and will look out the book. I will also look out for Pippa Bennet-Warner's name.

The reason I entitled this review Parallel Lives is that we explore simultaneously in this book two versions of the narrator: the up-to-date version in alternate chapters, and the younger selves which slowly grew into this character. Somehow, this seemed much more revealing that a traditional timeline approach.

3 people found this helpful

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Superb performance

Zadie Smith's novel absolutely brought alive by this superb reading of Swing Time. Each character distinct and memorable. Stellar work by Pippa Bennett-Warner. A terrific listening experience.

2 people found this helpful

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Really disappointing, despite a decent narration.

Zadie Smith has long been a writer I’ve admired and often loved, but this book is seriously turgid stuff. You keep waiting to care, and it never comes. The characters are mostly ciphers (often patronising ones), except for the narrator, who’s... well, *nothing*, really. She’s so boring, such a non-person.

Pippa Bennett-Warner does a creditable job (despite being a bit inconsistent with accents: the narrator’s mother often slips from her established light Jamaican-English into Bennett-Warner’s own pleasant default RP), but she can’t save this from being a really disappointing novel.

1 person found this helpful

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Couldn't stop reading

Loved the story, the subtlety of the characterisations and thoughtful insights into race celebrity, power of money. I think this is Zadie Smith's best book.

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Amazing book but..

I wasn’t sure I would like this book but I really did . It was different, poignant, immersive. Unique. Also loved all the references to my own neighbourhood in London and the exploration around race and power . However at the end I really wanted more. It’s the kind of book I am likely to listen to again . Brilliant writing

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Brilliant narration

I love the detail in this book especially around growing up in the 80s. The narrator is excellent and would listen to others by her definitely. I think the story itself was overlong which why I hate it 4 stars.

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the performance was better than the story

the performance by pippa bennett-warner was amazing the voices and accent is second to none.

however the story itself i felt was a bit disjointed and the constant skipping into different stages the ‘unnamed characters’ life, made this hard to follow. she seemed so obsessed with tracy and is constantly bitter at all the other people in her life i almost felt sorry for her. it seemed like her life revolves around tracy or other more prominent leaders such as aimee. and one by one as they leave her life just stops.

interesting concept. this is my first Zadie Smith Novel. and i felt her writing on character description is amazing i really felt the characters were real. i think the story was a bit preachy and disjointed and there was elements of feminism (almost for the sake of being there). having sad that looking forward to the next zadie smith

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Great book

I loved it.... Zadie smith nnever fails to keep me interested with her all colourful characters
Highly recommended

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mind expanding

I loved the whole book, it opened a lot of new topics both historically and in the present and made me look at the society I am living in and the attitudes towards other people. I love the narrator and I feel it could t have been done any better by anyone else.

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  • FRANCINE TAFFIN
  • 07-01-17

A good story, shame about the narrator

Zadie Smith has not disappointed. I wouldn't have imagined following a main character (the narrator) that seems so clueless about the world around her, be it her family, her boss, the African village where she spends weeks, or her erstwhile bff Tracey, but Smith manages to get us to tag along. And at the end of the story, she does seem to connect with reality at last!

What really spoiled my enjoyment was the reader, with her soporific tone. But that wasn't the worst. I just wish she'd refrained from doing accents, they just sounded so off and daft.