Swing Time

Narrated by: Pippa Bennett-Warner
Length: 13 hrs and 46 mins
4 out of 5 stars (1,709 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A New York Times best seller

Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize

An ambitious, exuberant new novel moving from North West 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, what constitutes a tribe or makes a person truly free. It's a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early 20s, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten either. 

Tracey makes it to the chorus line but struggles with adult life, while her friend leaves the old neighborhood behind, traveling the world as an assistant to a famous singer, Aimee, observing close up how the one percent live.

But when Aimee develops grand philanthropic ambitions, the story moves from London to West Africa, where diaspora tourists travel back in time to find their roots, young men risk their lives to escape into a different future, the women dance just like Tracey - the same twists, the same shakes - and the origins of a profound inequality are not a matter of distant history, but a present dance to the music of time.

©2016 Zadie Smith (P)2016 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"[Narrator Pippa] Bennett-Warner's delivery reflects...all the characters indelible personalities. She provides just the right nuances for the girls, their mothers, and the self-involved rock star the narrator works for. Don't miss this wonderfully written, convincing story, expertly delivered by Bennett-Warner." (AudioFile)  

What listeners say about Swing Time

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Enthralling and instructive. A novel of the highest caliber

The story of a biracial child growing to womanhood is told with such remarkable detail that it seems autobiographical. The story of the protagonist is interesting enough on its own, but the added bonus is occasional passages of poetic description you will have stop and reread them. Race and privilege are a context not the story. An inspired book by an author at the top of her craft. The reader is excellent, enhancing the characters' "personalities".

14 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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3.88 stars............

I love Zadie Smith's first novel, White Teeth, though I'm not sure I can say the same for Swing Time. The story is just okay. I try not to give up on a book once I begin one, and I considered abandoning Swing Time more than once. Bennett-Warner's stellar narration, and Zadie Smith's reputation, kept me listening. I kept waiting for the book to take off in the second half, but I just kept waiting. This isn't a bad book. Maybe I expect too much from Zadie. I still love her work.

Overall rating: 3.88 stars

13 people found this helpful

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What Happened to the Writer I Loved?

This story is fairly interesting, but the writing is gray and monotone. There is a single sad drone to the whole thing. I miss the humor, brightness and the potpourri of emotion and color from her earlier books.

8 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A Little More of Zadie Smith's Brilliance

It's always treat, when reading a Zadie Smith novel, to read in anticipation of those times in the story when she offers up to us just the right choice of brilliant words. Lots of them here in Swing Time.

6 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Wonderful characters, no resolution -a very satisfying read

An engaging journey through two women's growing up years, from public housing to a third-tier university, one-name celebrities and the complexities of fighting African poverty. Many fascinating female characters, vivid writing and time-shifting made this an engrossing novel.

11 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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A sandwich, where the bread is the best part

A somewhat evocative story, Swing Time offers a fascinating beginning and ending that almost made it worth the lengthy investment in listening to the full book. The early narrative is promising and then it's set aside for a tale involving a host of unsympathetic characters and a meandering storyline. There was so much potential in continuing to develop the tension between the two initial characters, but this relationship was unfortunately abandoned until the final chapters.
I listen to 3-4 audio books per month and finding an interesting read is such a prize. Although at times well written and intriguing, Swing Time was not a great book. I can't recommend it.

15 people found this helpful

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Brilliant performance, challenging story in audio

I found the storyline a bit challenging to follow when she shifted from childhood to young woman and back. But other than that I really enjoyed her descriptive language and felt as if I were there in the Villages and flats and places where she traveled. At what point did her mother begin living with a woman? After the Activist surely, but I did not recall an entry point for Miriam. It is a well-written book and I'm actually going to go purchase it so that I can read it and catch the places that I missed.

8 people found this helpful

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beautiful

loved it. haunting tale of race, class, fierce childhood friendships, betrayal and awakening. What if you became the personal assistant of your childhood pop star idol and learned to see through the lining glass at everyone but yourself? This novel imagines that and the crashing back to reality when the fantasy ends as reality leaks back in through the cracks.

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Absolute genius

This is a work of prodigious talent. I'm so honored to have read it. Enjoyed it beyond what I can convey. The performance is the best I've geard, with an incredible range of voices & accents. Perfection.

6 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Overly long, ultimately disappointing

Way too long, a rather rambling, somewhat pointless narrative. Be prepared to spend long listening hours with self-absorbed, clueless characters. Not a single one was anyone I'd want to meet. The narrator was fabulous, though.

12 people found this helpful