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Swing Time is Zadie Smith’s fifth novel and for my money her finest. A “best friend bildungsroman” in the Elena Ferrante mould, the novel tells the story of two girls growing up on the wrong side of town. Residents of neighbouring housing estates in London, the pair meet at a community dance class, one (the unnamed narrator) clever and self-doubting, the other (Tracey) confident and self-destructive. As with the Italian bestseller, the talented friend is the tortured one – prematurely sexual, rebellious at school, ungoverned at home – while the less gifted is an able student, determined to make it out of the neighbourhood. It gives little away to say that she does, becoming an assistant to a pop star called Aimee. It is by Aimee’s side that she travels the world, jetting from winters to summers.
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