Book ReviewThe Great Union: Stories“Submitted by Zadie Smith.
Summary: “Zadie Smith has established himself as one of the most iconic, critically respected, and popular writers of his generation. In her first collection of short stories, she combines her power of observation and unique voice to extract a full and complex experience of life in the modern world. With ten extraordinary new stories, complemented by a selection of her most commendable tracks New Yorker, Paris Review, and Grant, GRAND UNION explores a variety of things, from first love to cultural despair, as well as a desire to be the subject of your own experience. In captivating prose, she struggles for race, class, relationships, and gender roles in a world that feels increasingly divided. ”
Age: For adults; Genres: Literature, Women, Fiction; Settings: Modern (mostly); Various places; Other categories: Short stories, #OwnVoices, various authors, LGBTQIA +.
Over the past year, I’ve asked at least three Zadie Smith ARCs and it seems like its publishers don’t like me for some reason. But I knew the day would come when I would finally read something because I was interested in the reviews I saw on other blogs. I didn’t know I would meet this book sitting on the shelf of my free public library and just waiting for me to get involved. And that’s exactly what I did! (Remember, I live in a non-English speaking country, so obviously there won’t be many books in English on these shelves. More importantly, those in English are either fiction and genre books I’ve never counted on old novels and classics that someone had to read in an English-lit lesson at school, so you can imagine how surprised I found this.)
So, I finally had to read Zadie Smith. Remember, I’ve always said that a really good short story is a joy. I’ve also often said it’s a harder written form than a novel because you need to show a lot more than you say, and you need to be concise. Obviously, not every author can do that, and that’s fine (for example, it seemed to me that Joanne Harris ’short stories are nowhere as good as her novels), so I have to keep that in mind when reading Smith’s work as well. All of the above is stories included here:
- Sentimental education
- Lazy river
- Lyrics and music
- That’s right
- Parental Morning Epiphany
- City center
- Miss Adele among the corsets
- Escape from New York
- Great week
- Meet the president!
- Two men arrive in the village
- Kelso deconstructed
- For the king
- Now more than ever
- The Great Union
The first thing I’ve noticed in these stories is how the collection looks very eclectic. For example, most of them are highly literary works, almost all contemporary works. But then there are those like “Blocked,” which was more speculative fiction because it seems to be about some deity or power that has problems with why they built the earth. History also shows that there are other parallel worlds. I’m not sure how I feel about that story or any other that was more speculative than literary. But I can’t say they weren’t well written because they were all.
Undoubtedly the most powerful of these stories spoke of the problems associated with the colorful man, and the most powerful Kelso deconstructed. The biggest exception is history Escape from New York about it – a group of people trying to escape from the city. It is not said now that it is about 9/11, but I don’t think I would be alone in thinking it was the inspiration for this story. In it, Smith brings together a group of relatively privileged people who basically want to escape from what they think are more attacks. This story is actually a kind of social commentary, and I also realized that it’s a bit of a metaphor for what kind of privilege can motivate people to do when they’re afraid of something. Mrs. Adele among the corsets there is another story that I really enjoyed, but it seems that this topic was not about races, but more about gender and petty prejudices against transgender people.
Overall, I think it was an interesting collection, and while not all of these stories suited me, overall I see where I’d really like to read more of Smith’s work. I think her novels may be more rounded and focused because this collection seemed less harmonious to me. Obviously, I didn’t have to expect that when I realized that many of these stories were published in magazines and therefore not written for this book. I can definitely recommend this book (why would anyone just give it away. I keep my copy), and I think it deserves a very healthy four out of five stars.
Zadie Smith’s Grand Union: Stories can be found (via these affiliate links) at Amazon, Bookstore JK and USA (free worldwide delivery), Foyles, Water stones, WHSmith, Wordery JK and USA, Walmart (Kobo) USA (Electronic books and audio books), Website eBooks.com, Booksamillion.com, ITunes (IBooks and audio books), new or used since Alibris, Used from Better books for the world (promoting libraries and world literature), as well as from and to Bookshop.org and JK. Book store (supporting independent bookstores, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or IndieBound shop near you.