Through the Reading Glasses June 2024

By Janet Moore

What an interesting book group discussion we had in April–only three of us finished “Swing Time” by Zadie Smith, and hardly anyone liked it! Talk we did though, and I’m more convinced than ever that an unpopular book is worth reading and makes for great conversation.

The narrator grows up in Northwest London with best friend Tracey; both girls are mixed race but Tracey’s dad is in and out of prison, while the narrator’s dad is a postal worker. Her mom is a determined feminist intellectual who pushes herself through university courses, meanwhile having no time for love and mothering. The girls cement their relationship at dance classes and then gradually grow apart, as Tracey displays real aptitude and rhythm; the narrator moves on to university herself. What next?

The dancer achieves a small measure of success on the stage. The narrator winds up as personal assistant to a female rock star whose interests turn to educational philanthropy in West Africa. However, through her own research and visits to the targeted village and its failing school, the narrator discovers that Aimee truly doesn’t understand the implications and consequences of her supposed good deeds or indeed the history of the country. However, the narrator finds for the first time a sense of loving family and true friendship. And no, the narrator remains nameless, a fact that I’ll let you figure out if you’re brave enough to give this a try.

On the lighter side, Heather Webber’s new book, “Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe”, showcases a small southern town at its worst and best, and really, the worst is confined to one person. Magical realism? Just a bit–you’ve heard of the four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie, no doubt. Add one aunt who meets her niece for the first time when her niece returns to carry on her grandmother’s Blackbird Cafe–many lovable town characters, and a recipe that just needs Granny Zee’s special zing. Now, if only Anna Cate and Natalie can figure out what it was that allowed the pie eater those comforting and revealing dreams…the crust thickens!