Author: Award-winning British novelist Zadie Smith.
Genre/category: Non-fiction – essay collection
Where can I buy it? Here
Release date: 8th February 2018
About ten years ago, I stumbled upon two books in a charity shop: On Beauty and White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I’d seen them both featured heavily in our local Waterstones, so I picked them up.
I finished On Beauty. I turned to the front page. And I read it all over again.
The thing that I love about Smith is her writing style. It is beautiful, fluid, funny, and readable. Her characters are so interesting that I found myself completely gripped by their stories.
So when I was approved by Penguin to receive an advanced e-copy of Feel Free, Smith’s collection of essays, I was excited.
The essays range from Smith’s thoughts on Brexit and the impassioned defense of public libraries, to interviews with Jay-Z and the excellent comedic duo Key and Peele, to her musings on films, music and works of art.
Smith’s writing style is, as usual, beautiful. Her observations are sharp. and I found her perspective interesting. Her essays on Joni Mitchell and Facebook were particularly good.
The downside? I really struggled with some of these essays.
I think this is the inherent risk you take in picking up a book of essays on a variety of topics – some of them will chime with you, others won’t. I pushed my way through essays on films I hadn’t watched and works of art I hadn’t seen, and Smith writes so intelligently about them that I found myself a bit intimidated. I ended up skipping whole chunks of essays just to move onto the next one. You don’t get the impression of length with an e-book, but it turns out, this is quite a hefty tome with a good amount of content. It feels more like a book that you would pick up and read whenever you fancied a well-written essay, rather than something you could devour from cover to cover.
If you are a fan of a well-written essay, and a fan of Smith, I think there is treasure to be found here. On the plus side, I discovered new things thanks to this collection. As Smith explores in the essay Some Notes on Attunement, sometimes we are narrow in our appreciation of culture, mostly due to time constraints – ‘Busy changing nappies. Busy cleaning the sink or going to work … you can understand why many people feel rather pushed for time’ – and it can bring a sense of loss when you realise that you just don’t have enough time to appreciate everything the world has to offer us. But Smith’s essay collection helped me to discover new things, and open up my mind a little more, for which I am grateful.
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