Swing Time by Zadie Smith is on almost every single best of 2016 book list I’ve seen. And I’ve been gravitating to reading fiction post US election, needing some escape that also may prompt me to think. Swing Time did just that. I’ve read one other book by Smith, On Beauty, which I enjoyed but didn’t love. And I can say the same thing about Swing Time, it made me think, I enjoyed it, but it won’t be the best book I’ve read this year.
Smith is great at setting up characters and then based on who they are and what they know, they go in various directions. The narrator, who we never learn the name of, and her friend growing up move in very different directions as they age, even though they start from very similar positions. But through these two characters, mostly the narrator, Smith got me thinking about class, race, celebrity, charitable work at a large scale, and more. It’s a world that is quite different from my own and that’s part of why I read it, because I was able to learn more.
I like Smith’s style of writing, and I do like the way her characters evolve, I usually start to care about them in some way and want to know what happens, which is why I finish the books. But in both of Smith’s books I’ve read I was left wanting a bit more at the end, and wondering about the characters. That may have been the point, but unsatisfying endings are hard for me.