Grand Union by Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith turns her enviable observational skills to a whole host of characters in new short story collection Grand Union

Book Review by Heather McDaid | 03 Oct 2019
  • Grand Union by Zadie Smith
Book title: Grand Union
Author: Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith’s reputation tends to precede her: one of those writers who has crafted work so respected that she’ll frequently pop up as an author you must read. Distinctive, smart and full of wit – her novels are consuming, her fiction a delight. Grand Union takes these charms and presents them in bitesize offerings. The astute power of observation that flows throughout Smith’s work and dexterity in prose is captured as she leaps across countless subjects, genres and narratives in quick succession, exploring the modern world.

The last days of life, moral panic spreading through upper echelons, privileged teens diving into virtual reality – there’s also a reprieve from the alternating pace as readers can put their feet up in the pool on a package holiday, ignoring the world beyond the horizon. Her characters are razor sharp; it's almost a shame to leave them after such fleeting visits. Though these rapidly shifting stories might not always feel fluid together, the breadth of Smith's talent remains clear as she plays with form throughout. Standouts include the speculative The Canker, and the fun deconstruction of storytelling in Parents’ Morning Epiphany.

As with most collections, some stories shine brighter than others, but when they really strike it right, they're the perfect reminder of just why Zadie Smith is held in such high regard.

Hamish Hamilton, 3 Oct, £20