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Grand Union

Stories
Narrated by: Zadie Smith, Doc Brown
Length: 6 hrs and 5 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
3 out of 5 stars (11 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal!

A dazzling collection of short fiction

Zadie Smith has established herself as one of the most iconic, critically respected, and popular writers of her generation. In her first short story collection, she combines her power of observation and her inimitable voice to mine the fraught and complex experience of life in the modern world. Interleaving 11 completely new and unpublished stories with some of her best-loved pieces from The New Yorker and elsewhere, Smith presents a dizzyingly rich and varied collection of fiction. Moving exhilaratingly across genres and perspectives, from the historic to the vividly current to the slyly dystopian, Grand Union is a sharply alert and prescient collection about time and place, identity and rebirth, the persistent legacies that haunt our present selves and the uncanny futures that rush up to meet us.

Nothing is off limits, and everything - when captured by Smith’s brilliant gaze - feels fresh and relevant. Perfectly paced and utterly original, Grand Union highlights the wonders Zadie Smith can do.

©2019 Zadie Smith (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Grand Union is an unusual creature, combining all the experimental exuberance of a writer discovering a form with the technical prowess of one at the height of her abilities. The result is exhilarating. Between the covers of one book, readers will find such disparate forms as allegory, parable, speculative thriller and satire, as well as shorter incarnations of Smith’s characteristic social comedy.... Smith’s voracious intellect is on full display. With vitality and wit, she shuttles between the philosophical universal and the intensely local - a movement formally realized in stories like 'Two Men Arrive in a Village' - between the world and the self.... It is a delight to watch Smith play." (San Francisco Chronicle)

"Thrillingly, the best work in Grand Union is some of the newest. Among its previously unpublished stories and the two most recently published ones, we find the surreal, the nonlinear, the essayistic, the pointillist.... Several stories take a mosaic approach, juxtaposing disparate scenes - in one case, venues around New York City involving music - into a brilliant whole. The effect, appropriately, is rather like instrumental improvisation...[Grand Union] contains some of Smith’s most vibrant, original fiction, the kind of writing she’ll surely be known for. Some of these stories provide hints that everything we’ve seen from her so far will one day be considered her 'early work,' that what lies ahead is less charted territory, wilder and less predictable." (Rebecca Makkai, The New York Times Book Review)

"An enchanting collection that examines the complexity of contemporary life. This book of short stories, the author’s first, refuses to define itself as any one thing. Instead, Smith allows each story to take on a tone, genre and life of its own.... This wild ride that Smith takes readers on is a delight to experience. Her characters are vivid and unique, as are her observations about the state of the world." (Associated Press)

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Not for me

Heard good things on NPR, but the audio book just didn’t hold my attention. I struggled to follow the story and the jumps between characters. Doc Brown’s performance was good and there were times I was pulled in to the story. I may enjoy this more if I read it with my eyes instead of my ears.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Sour and depressing

I see the author's ability to portray life through metaphor and visual imagery but the topics are sour and depressing. I barely made it through the first chapter. If I want to know about reality of animal cruelty I just have to walk out my door to witness the
wild life being decimated in my area. I purchased this after the NY times highly recommened but it's just not my reading style.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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In Defense of Zadie Smith

The best decision I made in relation to the audiobook of Zadie Smith's "Grand Union: Stories" was to not listen to the naysayers who gave it negative reviews. My first introduction to Smith's writings came not from her novels, but from her 2019 essay "In Defense of Fiction" published in a popular literary magazine. I not only read her spirited defense of fiction, but I was spared developing a prejudice of only knowing of her writing through her novels. Furthermore, I saw her put her defense of fiction into practice in this collection of exquisite stories. There are many delights in this collection, among which are her superb sense of character and voice. She features a wide range of characters in transition between Asia, Africa, America, England, and the West Indies. Instead of the old adage of "write what you know," she wrote what she imagined, but there is enough truth in her stories to grip my imagination. "Big Week" features an Indian architect from Uganda in Boston. Listening in on the architect's conversation with a Boston cabbie was one of the many high points of this collection. Hearing all of these cultures clash and meld thrilled me. Smith is unpredictable. I do not know where she is going with her stories. I do not care. I enjoy spending time with her characters and listening to them, like in the flash fiction sequence "Mood" which features snapshots of New Yorkers and includes a hilarious conversation between Roberta and her parrot Preston. One of the keys to "Grand Union" is that you have to listen to the stories over and over again to get them, for them to deepen in you so you could appreciate their craft and nuance. In this hustle and bustle world, people often will not invest the time in sinking into a story. We want things fast, easy, comprehensible. "Grand Union" rebukes this trend in our culture. I've listened to some of the stories in her collection two or three times and I am still learning something new from them, being delighted and moved in unexpected ways, such as the poignant "For the King" or the contentious "Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets." "Grand Union" is not only an outstanding collection of short stories, but a popular name for train stations. Reading her collection, I get a sense of passengers from various backgrounds meeting each other in surprising combinations, which often happens at train stations. People are moving together for a few moments only to part and never see each other again. I enjoyed listening to the conversations of people in transition. The whole point is not the destination, but how we are connected to one another.