Man Booker Longlist 2017 – 6

Zadie Smith, you love her or you don’t. This is what I have found among readers that I talk to. Sadly, I am among those who don’t really care for her books and I feel it is only fair to come right out with this straightaway.

Swing TimeSpring Time is a novel about two girls, the narrator and Tracey. The two girls meet with their mothers in a cemetery, of all places. Their lives are inextricably linked from there on. Tracey and the narrator go to a dance class with Miss Isabel, piano played by Mr Booth. Tracey is a natural, the narrator has flat feet and only a limited sense of rhythm. The competition begins right there.

Tracey lives with her enormous mother and no obvious other parent; the narrator lives with both her parents, white father who is unambitious, conscientious and caring (apparently) and her mother is a Jamaican, resolute, selfish, ambitious and driven.

The area is North London, more or less. Don’t use this novel as an A-Z!

The lives of the two girls, all narrated in the first person, go from that first meeting through teenage and into adulthood, the predictable paths of these two and their parents looks set to play out according to script, but then this is a novel and it is by Zadie Smith.

I do think this is likely to be on the shortlist. It is clever, surprising and wilful. Will I be ecstatic if it wins? No. But I do admire Zadie Smith for mining a rich source of material from her locality and her people (not necessarily those related to her, as per Sebastian Barry, but those close by). I had a friend who was the priest at St Mary’s Willesden, and these people were in his congregation, everyone one of them.

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2 Comments

Filed under Books, Culture, Environment, Modern History, Politics, The Man Booker Prize, Travel, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Man Booker Longlist 2017 – 6

  1. I liked this one a lot although I think On Beauty is still her best novel. I’m not sure if it will make the shortlist but I need to read some of the other nominated books to see what she’s up against…

  2. Once you do, you will see that there is an interesting underlying thread. I commented last year on the “gore fest” aspect of the longlist, this year has a remarkable repetition of female protagonists, so far I have read 8 books, due to post on the Arundhati Roy next. 5 have a woman as a central character. I haven’t read up the blurbs about the next books, I know that 4321 has a malex4 protagonist and I realise that 50% of the population is female, but I find this a fascinating aspect of the Man Booker, going back several years, different threads. I may post about it one day.

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