In a review of Zadie Smith’s new story collection, Grand Union, for 3AM Magazine, Andrew Hungate finds himself struggling to isolate the virtues of the book:
‘Parents’ Morning Epiphany’ [is] a poorly executed and mean-spirited rant whose inclusion [in Grand Union] is so depressing that it makes one want to give up on upmarket fiction altogether.
But let’s try again. Why begin with the bad? Grand Union shows a talented, award-winning novelist trying her hand for the first time at short stories, some of which are very good. A story entitled ‘Two Men Arrive in a Village’ stands out as an exceptional length of prose, infusing a mythopoetic style with the concrete terms of postcolonial suffering. ‘Kelso Deconstructed’ makes out of the 1959 murder of Kelso Cochrane a clever update of The Death of Ivan Ilyich, reminding us with a few forceful twists of the arm that the meditative memento mori is a thing for “bourgeois Russian deathbeds”. Even the less polished pieces are refreshing in their frankness of form, as Smith makes no attempt to distinguish between essay and story, the observed and the imagined.
Indeed, for readers who have grown accustomed to the semi-annual release of a Zadie Smith novel, Grand Union promises a refreshing change of pace. It is encouraging to see a writer experiment in the middle stage of their career. … [But u]fortunately, Grand Union is deeply unfun to read.