Grand Union by Zadie Smith
Grand Union is Zadie Smith’s collection of short stories, comprising eleven completely new works as well as eight stories previously published in magazines. Thematically, the stories vary widely but are all carried by a political undertone, more obvious in some, more subtle in others. With honesty and nuance Smith explores race and class struggles, relationships and gender dynamics in our ever evolving world that appears increasingly polarised. She skilfully criticises current political issues such as Brexit, the Trump presidency and the Brett Kavanaugh trial without making them the main focus of her stories and rather placing normal people and their experiences centre stage.
Not only does Smith explore many issues of life in the modern world, she also experiments with genre, ranging from more classic literary fiction, over streams of consciousness to science fiction and fantasy. This astonishing scope of course comes with the risk that the reader will not love every single story, but it also means that there is probably something for everyone in this collection. Certainly the brilliantly witty and captivating prose should be reason enough for everyone to benefit from this little book. The stories are fast paced and unlike any other I have read so far, original and written by an author with an obvious gift for sharp observations. Especially the dialogues are often as real as if Smith had simply transcribed conversations she overheard in the streets; they flow easily and take the reader on a journey through explorations of identity and society that are as authentic as the characters who do the talking.
Though I was not equally enamoured with all nineteen of the stories, I found some true gems in this book. Grand Unionwas the first Zadie Smith work I read and it left me very excited to read more in this inimitable voice and immediately had to acquire White Teeth to start reading my way through her praised novels.