Swing Time by Zadie Smith is a long awaited new novel for me from this magnificent writer. The title, Swing Time, comes from the movie musical. Our narrator loves Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. It was the dancing that caught her attention, not the plots of the movies. Dancing was her early childhood escape along with her friendship to Tracey. Their lives will be a dance.
“As a fact it was, in my mind, at one and the same time absolutely true and obviously untrue, and perhaps only children are able to accommodate double-faced facts like these.“ This quote resonates with me during our own political times and serves as a backdrop for the narrator and her best friend Tracey. Tracey is everything the narrator’s mother does not want in a friend for her daughter. They go to different schools, live in different housing projects, but share the same dance class. Tracey excels in dance; the narrator is flat footed. Tracey has a dark side to her, watches too much television, and does not show the independence the narrator’s mom expects of her daughter. It is the story of two girls and how they grew up differently and yet their lives kept interweaving.
Then the narrator meets Aimee, a huge music star, and just like that became one of three assistants. She traveled the world. Even though her life was separated from Tracey, she kept running into to Tracey whenever she return to England. They went in different directions. The narrator traveled the world as one of Aimee’s three personal assistants. Tracey followed a stage life in England and then became a mother of children by different fathers. There lives interacted in various and bizarre ways.
When the narrator’s parents divorce, the mother became a Member of Parliament. Then a strange interaction began between the mother and Tracey. The narrator doesn’t have her own life; she lives Aimee’s life. After she leaves Aimee or is fired, she cares for her dying mother. Our narrator returns to her roots and gets her life back.
This is a love story of how the narrator and Tracey find love, family, and purpose.