Swing Time

Zadie Smith's Swing Time follows two girls that dream of being dancers as their lives slowly take diverging paths.

Zadie Smith

An ambitious, exuberant new novel moving from northwest London to West Africa, from the multi-award-winning author of White Teeth and On Beauty.

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. (From Penguin Canada

Swing Time is on the 2017 Man Booker Prize longlist.

Excerpt | Author interviews

From the book

If all the Saturdays of 1982 can be thought of as one day, I met Tracey at ten a.m. on that Saturday, walking through the sandy gravel of a churchyard, each holding our mother's hand. There were many other girls present but for obvious reasons we noticed each other, the similarities and the differences, as girls will. Our shade of brown was exactly the same — as if one piece of tan material had been cut to make us both — and our freckles gathered in the same areas, we were of the same height. But my face was ponderous and melancholy, with a long, serious nose, and my eyes turned down, as did my mouth. Tracey's face was perky and round, she looked like a darker Shirley Temple, except her nose was as problematic as mine, I could see that much at once, a ridiculous nose — it went straught up in the air like a little piglet. Cute, but also obscene: her nostrils were on permanent display. On noses you could call it a draw. On hair she won comprehensively. She had spiral curls, they reached to her backside and were gathered into two long plaits, glossy with some kind of oil tied at their ends with satin yellow bows. Satin yellow bows were a phenomenon unknown to my mother. She pulled my great frizz back into a single cloud, tied with a black band.


From Swing Time by Zadie Smith ©2016. Published by Penguin Canada.

Author interviews

Eleanor speaks with one of fiction's most exciting voices, British novelist Zadie Smith. The beloved author of 'White Teeth' and 'NW' has a new novel, 'Swing Time' - about fame, female friendship, and tap dancing. 2:17
The author opens up about her new book and why she used the backdrop of dance to tell this story. 18:44