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Grand Union

Written by: Zadie Smith
Narrated by: Zadie Smith, Doc Brown
Length: 6 hrs and 5 mins

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Publisher's Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

The first ever collection of stories from the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author of Swing Time and White Teeth.

In the summer of 1959, an Antiguan immigrant in north west London lives the last day of his life, unknowingly caught in someone else's story of hate and division, resistance and revolt.

A mother looks back on her early forays into matters of the human heart - and other parts of the human body - considering the ways in which desire is always an act of negotiation, destruction, and self-invention.

A disgraced cop stands amid the broken shards of his life, unable to move forward into a future that holds no place for him.

Moral panic spreads like contagion through the upper echelons of New York City - and the cancelled people look disconcertingly like the rest of us.

A teenage scion of the technocratic elite chases spectres through a premium virtual reality, trailed by a little girl with a runny nose and no surviving family.

We all take a much-needed break from this mess, on a package holiday where the pool's electric blue is ceaselessly replenished, while political and environmental collapse happen far away, to someone else.

Interleaving 10 completely new and unpublished stories with some of her best-loved pieces from the New Yorker, and elsewhere, Zadie Smith, presents a dizzyingly rich and varied collection of fiction. Moving exhilaratingly across genres and perspectives, from the historic to the vividly current to the slyly dystopian, Grand Union, is a sharply alert and prescient collection about time and place, identity and rebirth, the persistent legacies that haunt our present selves and the uncanny futures that rush up to meet us.

This collection is narrated by Doc Brown, with the first and last story read by Zadie Smith.

©2019 Zadie Smith (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Zadie Smith is the best writer of our generation." (Gary Shteyngart)

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  • Rob
  • 15-10-19

Zadie Smith reads only the first and last chapters

The other 17 chapters (most of the book) are read by Doc Brown (brother of ZS), who does a good job.. but if you download this audiobook because you enjoy listening to a writer read their own work - you will be disappointed. They’ve chosen to use ZS as the sample, but it isn’t representative of the audiobook.

EDIT: Doc Brown actually does a great job. I've increased the performance review to reflect this.

That aside...

This is an eclectic collection of existential short stories. Each with a vicious sting in the tail. This book launches an attack, scrutinising and exposing a wide range of topics - which is remarkable considering how few pages are allocated to each chapter. The stories are each a master of compression - race, sex, politics, class, mental health, technology and others (including the books own genre) are all examined, but I think, perhaps, free will (vs. determinism) is the thread weaving the collection together. Which is interesting with hindsight, because of course I feel free… until I consider having completed a Zadie Smith book then realise how easily manipulated I was during reading it... ZS take on science fiction in Meet the president is brilliant, from a very human perspective. Of all the stories, this is the one I’d most like to see developed to a full length novel.

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Richard
  • 30-01-20

Just did not grab my attention and hold it, at all

Everyone has heard of ZS, and I thought it was about time I tried one of her books. I’m afraid that none of the stories in this book grabbed my attention or interest, but I did go end to end just in case.