59 pages 1 hour read

Zadie Smith

Swing Time

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2016

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Prologue and Part 1

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1: “Early Days”

Prologue Summary

The unnamed narrator returns to England in 2008 after a long time away. She feels humiliated that she’s been fired and sent away. She attends an event where a director reviews films; they play a clip of Swing Time, a film the narrator knows intimately. Watching a clip of Fred Astaire dancing in Swing Time is a transcendent experience for her. She feels joy, but also senses that “A truth was being revealed to me: that I had always tried to attach myself to the light of other people, that I had never had any light of my own. I experienced myself as a kind of shadow” (4). She wants to show the clip to Lamin, a dancer friend, but is embarrassed to realize that in the movie, Fred Astaire dances in blackface. She checks her messages, hoping for a word from Aimee. Instead, she sees a note accusing the narrator of being a now-exposed “whore.”

Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary

In 1982, when the narrator is seven years old, she meets Tracey in dance class. She is instantly drawn to Tracey because “Our shade of brown was exactly the same—as if one piece of tan material had been cut to make us both—and our freckles gathered in the same areas, we were of the same height” (9).