James Gault reviews Swing Time – by Zadie Smith
I very seldom fail to finish a book I have started. And if I don’t, do I have a right to review it? I think I do; my experience might be helpful to other potential readers.
Zadie Smith is a successful and highly respected writer, and my failure to get to the end of Swing Time doesn’t make her a bad novelist. In fact, she’s in excellent company. There are two other authors whose works have proved resistant to my desire and perseverance: Henry James and Marcel Proust. I have started their novels several times but have always had to give up very early on.
The problem isn’t the quality of writing. In Swing Time the characterisation is convincing and well- drawn, the comments on social issues well observed and pertinent, the use of words and phrasing inspired. The problem for me was that I saw the novel as ‘interesting characters in search of a story’. It was a book going round in circles, and I just couldn’t find a reason to keep reading.
Probably I’m a kind of cultural lightweight, in need of a plot and hooks to keep me going. But I am what I am. I’m sorry to run out on our ‘date’ so early, Zadie, but we just weren’t made for each other. But you’re already Ms Right for millions of other readers, so don’t grieve over my loss. You can’t win them all! Have a nice life and continued great success.
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