The main thread of Zadie Smith’s fifth novel is the on again/off again friendship between the nameless narrator and Tracey. They meet in a dance class and are drawn to each other because they have the same complexion, but that is where their similarities end. Although Tracey is the one with the talent, our narrator has most of the advantages in life. The older they get, the less they have in common. Tracey continues to dance, but never gets beyond the chorus line. The narrator is assistant #1 to a world famous entertainer, traveling worldwide with her and spending a great deal of time in a small village in Africa.
Swing Time is not an easy read-it is slow, descriptive and has several subplots. However, I am very happy I stuck with it. Smith’s characters seem authentic, her plots are engrossing, and I loved her descriptions of dances and dancers – everything from Fred Astaire dancing with a broom to Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk.