I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof of this book. All opinions are my own.
I’ve read three other books by Zadie Smith and have always sort of generally enjoyed her writing but never been quite wowed by it. (My unpopular opinion is that I liked The Embassy of Cambodia better than her longer works.) That said, I couldn’t resist a chance to read Smith’s new short story collection (due out October 8, 2019). Even when Smith isn’t fantastic, she is still very good.
I like short stories a lot and this collection doesn’t disappoint. It’s startling in its variety. There are stories set in London, New York, Paris. Stories set in the future, in a (not quite) alternate version of the present. Each story says something interesting and thoughtful about our own world and society. While the characterization isn’t that strong in the individual stories, they felt like they made a strong, cohesive whole. Even though each is a stand-alone story, the collection all together makes a strong statement about what matters to us today.
There is a drag queen shopping for a corset, a sheltered but powerful boy in a somewhat dystopian future who stumbles into a wake, there are Michael and Marlon and Liz escaping from New York after disaster. There are middle class Brits on vacation in Spain and an ex-cop having a Big Week! Some of the stories are quite funny, primarily in their sharp observations and truths about human nature. Michael and Marlon and Liz may be recognizable figures but they’re also recognizable because they’re people and we see ourselves in their responses.
Reading this collection, it occurs to me that Smith’s voice and style only gets stronger with each book. These stories seem to point her in a new direction and I’m excited to see where she goes next.