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What do Sylvia Plath, Joan Didion, Grace Kelly, and Rita Hayworth have in common? All of them were former residents of the Barbizon Hotel. Intended as a safe haven for the “Modern Woman” seeking a career in the arts, it became the place to stay for any ambitious young woman hoping for fame and fortune. This is the first history of New York’s most famous residential hotel, and the remarkable women who lived there.
Welcome to Read This Book, the newsletter where I recommend a book you should add to your TBR, STAT! I stan variety in all things, and my book recommendations will be no exception. These must-read books will span genres and age groups. There will be new releases, oldie but goldies from the backlist, and the classics you may have missed in high school. Oh my! If you’re ready to diversify your books, then LEGGO!!
Happy International Women’s Day! Today is the celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women across the globe! In honor of the occasion, I’m recommending the first book I read by one Zadie Smith. Although we often say not to judge a book by its cover, I will be the first to admit I sometimes choose to read a book based solely on its cover. When I see a beautiful cover, I expect a beautiful story to be housed behind it. That is exactly what I experienced with Swing Time.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Two young brown girls dream of being dancers, but Tracey is the one with all the talent. The other girl is full of ideas. As children, they share a close but complicated relationship that abruptly ends in their early 20s. Moving from London to West Africa, Swing Time is a story about music, friendship, and how our roots shape and bind us.
I have complicated feelings about Swing Time. Although Zadie Smith has quite the way with words, and Swing Time was well written, when I got to the end of the book, I was unsatisfied. I needed more. I wanted more of the story. I could have definitely used Swing Time 2: Electric Boogaloo. I wanted to know what the narrator did with the rest of her life. How does her friendship with Tracey fare?
What makes Swing Time such a must-read book is the story is one of the most original I have read in recent years. I haven’t read anything like it, and I’m not sure I ever will again. Swing Time touches on race, gender, relationships, power dynamics, sex, and class, but it doesn’t feel heavy-handed or preachy. It was also interesting to read a book with a woman narrator who is kind of unlikeable. She is not a bad person, but as a reader, I generally felt unsympathetic toward almost every situation in which she found herself. I actually found that refreshing. It’s not often I read about a woman who isn’t written to be charming or lovable. Reading Swing Time made me more interested in reading stories with similar types of characters.
Until next time bookish friends,
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