The only reason I wanted to read this novel was because: Zadie Smith. I had never read anything by her and after reading and hearing so much hype about her, the blurb played a minimal role in my choice to read this novel. Naturally I had very high expectations but it turns out this probably wasn’t the best Zadie Smith novel to start with. While it wasn’t a snoozefest, it didn’t come close to the level I had placed it on in my mind; so colour me disappointed.
The book is divided into parts that take us through the life of the narrator. I really enjoyed the first part which introduces us to Tracey and the narrator, (who remains unnamed and I’ll refer to as “our girl” in this review), as young girls who dream of becoming professional dancers. While Tracey has a natural gift for dancing, our girl has flat feet but is a better singer.
Their relationship, to me, is extremely unhealthy. Tracey is a raging bitch, even at 9 years old and our girl is a follower. This results in a very skewered relationship which is thankfully ( at least I thought so) disrupted when Tracey gets into an elite dance school while our girl goes on to college. Unfortunately, she doesn’t bloom in the absence of her toxic friend as I had hoped. Instead she takes the path of less resistance and remains as unambitious as ever.
Our girl leaves what I thought was a promising career as an associate in what is the equivalent of MTV to become a personal assistant to a pop star, Aimee, who decides to build a school for girls in Africa (I forgot which country already. Don’t judge me). This places our girl in another relationship where she is subordinate, she seems to seek out relationships where she has little purchasing power, so to speak.
This is frustrating to watch and a little disturbing to be honest. The way she attached herself to people she considers better than her (whom she secretly hates BTW), while remaining incredibly childish. She never matures, is somewhat delusional, self-centered and utterly unlikable.
The only reason I finished this book wasn’t because I was enjoying it but because I was curious to see if our girl would get her head straightened out eventually. She doesn’t. Instead the biggest thing she does is display just how much of a brat she is. I should point out she’s over 30 at this point.
So far, there’s no real reason not to like this book. An unlikeable character isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it means the Author has done a fantastic job. So why didn’t I enjoy this book?
- While the prose is faultless, the story didn’t do much for me. It became more difficult to read as it went on, and I started to get restless as soon as the focus shifted from Tracey and Our girl.
- I did not particularly enjoy the shifting timelines either, it made it difficult to connect with the characters. Especially those that were absent in Part 1. In fact, I feel this book would have been more enjoyable in chronological order.
- The pace is way too slow. The author goes on and on about so many things I couldn’t relate to. So much that I started skipping pages to get to dialogue. Personally, I think this book is longer than it needs to be.
However, I don’t think it’s a terrible book. In fact, I’m sure a more “intellectual” person would read this and write a poetic review about it. Alas, I am not a poet. I spent my formative years studying chemistry and this book’s formula just didn’t do it for me.
I was given an ARC of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review
Author: Zadie Smith
Published by: Penguin Books UK
Date of Publication: November 15, 2016
Genre: Literary Fiction