The Englewood Review of Books
Best Books of 2019
Advent / Christmas Calendar
Hardback: Penguin Press, 2019
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Grand Union is not a novel. It is a collection of nineteen “pieces.” Smith’s stories both capture and confuse the reader. The author is both politically correct and not. The plots skip and ramble. She walks the line of pornography, sometimes extending a toe or a whole foot over, and then she steps back with humor or uneasy self-reflection. She toys with religion, and her sacrilege is self-conscious. Unlike authors who smear religions for which they have no regard, Smith appears to be curious about the religions she teases apart. In “Blocked” she writes about a divinity, speaking in the first person, who admits he created the world long ago,and if he had known how it would turn out, he might have done some things differently.
The opening set of stories in Grand Union includes references to family and children. They are a reminder that Smith is no longer the young writer who dazzled the literary world two decades ago with her first novel, White Teeth. More than half of the material in this volume is republished from The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Granta. The collection demonstrates
Zadie Smith’s literary brilliance in small cuts, while also demonstrating that she has a track record.
- from the review of this book by Mary VanderGoot
in our Advent 2019 magazine issue