C Letter Book Club: Zadie Smith's "Swing Time"
The ambitious novel explores globalization, feminism, the cult of celebrity, politics, sexuality, and race with beautiful prose and remarkable attention to detail through the lens of an unnamed narrator who is extremely self-aware if somewhat unlikable.
Despite the ounces of Sea Bright sand seen seeping out of my copy of the book above it
is NOT a beach read. It’s not scandalous, charming, or particularly soothing. It also isn’t short. Clocking in at nearly 500 pages it took me about a month to finish. If you follow me on instagram you know that’s a really long time.
I’m a sucker for an unappealing female protagonist but as a newcomer to Smith’s celebrated work I wasn’t prepared for the plot to play second fiddle to the storytelling and I really failed to identify with this main character.
Still each and every page brought me something worth thinking about making “Swing Time” well worth sticking with. It was a welcome challenge and while at one while I was itching to get to the glossier picks stacked on my nightstand I would definitely reread this book.
By the time I had reached the halfway point I was constantly snapping pictures of passages to revisit. Friends would text to ask me what the book was about and my fingers would going into a flurry drawing connections between african villages and the paparazzi, minstrel shows and cultural appropriation, school curriculums and absentee fathers, teenage drug use and “pretty girl privilege.”
Smith’s work offers such perspective for the pensive that after awhile I forgot about the plot progression and just followed the powerful themes from continent to continent. If you can only see yourself reading one fiction book this summer I would suggest that this be it. Just make sure you have some serious time on your hands.
Don't forget to share what your reading this summer using the hashtag #cletterbookclub!
Photo Credit: Penguin Press