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Winter by Ali Smith

Winter Bleak Frosty wind earth as iron water as stone so the old song goes And now Art's mother is seeing thingsCome to think of it Art's seeing things himselfWhen four people strangers and family converge on a fifteen bedroom You're reading the book about the leaves again It's not the same book Same cover image different seasonSo no leaves floating about in this one?No leaves But lots of floatersLike eye floaters?Those and othersYou do like your enigmasPlastic floating across the oceans is no allusive enigma it's very realOh right serious floaters I won't make the joke that wasOr floaters as in people with no fixed place to sleepAnd this book is called Winter? BrrrOr chemicals floating about in the atmosphere causing havoc in the food chainIs there nothing fun in this Winter book I mean like Christmas?You want Christmas? This book does Christmas with layers Layers of Christmasses one on anotherOh good Any snow flakes floating about?Something white and granular at any rate Possibly nuclearDon't massacre Christmas pleaseTo paraphrase the book you've done it yourselfMe? I love Christmas I especially love the games we played at ChristmasGames? There are games floating through these pages alright Word association gamesOh let's play a word association game I'll begin RobinHatredNo You're supposed to say Holly or Berry or Red or somethingI was thinking Red Red as in hatred Red as in tortured Red as in massacred Ugh This book has warped your mind I'll just pretend you said Red and I'll answer GreenGreenham Common Nuclear holono Stop You're warping my mind now WoofBarking mad That's what you are And herAli Smith? You're barking up the wrong tree if you think she's crazy There's no one saner She can see the underlying fabric of our world clearer than most Prove itIt's as if she's a torch on high beam shining light into every corner of our time She's even inside my head directing her spotlight into the recesses of my memory Grocer Jack and then out through my eyes so that I can't but see the world clearly myself It's no accident that the characters with most insight in this book are called Lux and IrisAli Smith does sound clearsighted and bright and wiseSnap There's a character called after Wisdom Sophia Though she's sometimes called Philo and she's a bit of a sophistA philosopher do you mean?Well a philosopher lite perhaps philo as in phyllofilo pastry according to her sister There's a character called Art too But Ali Smith makes him the most irrelevant of all the characters which is odd given the focus she usually gives to art in her books and in this one too in a way Very odd indeed I'm pretending to see what you mean But do carry onWell I was reminded of various pieces of art as I read the early pages of this book I kept thinking of a Brancusi piece like this oneand eventually a completely smooth one like this oneAnd they both reminded me of Barbara Hepworth's sculptures which were mentioned briefly in Autumn like this one for exampleOr this one containing a little shape as smooth as a Brancusi Hmm They are very beautiful but kind of enigmatic What do they mean? Well the thing is Hepworth's sculptures turn up again in Winter and they led to an explosion of understanding for me as a reader I saw them as representing both books What was absence in one was presence in the other what was loss was gain what was missing was found But neither book had a monopoly on the lost and found or on the absence and the presence Both contain both And I came to realise that all the themes from the first were threaded through the second the movement of peoples the lies of politicians the brutality of soldiers the accumulations of useless stuff sister versus sister and of course art versus politics So you were reading the same book after all Yes Both contain both And when Spring comes out I know I'll find a third layer of the same warp and woof I can't wait to read itconversation continued in Spring

Read Winter by Ali Smith

Ollow up to her sensational Autumn Smith's shapeshifting novel casts a warm wise merry and uncompromising eye over a post truth era in a story rooted in history and memory and with a taproot deep in the evergreens art and love Martin Amis said that there seems to be a reuisite period of time before one can write about historical events especially catastrophes He was referring to 9 11 and his first publication about it—The Second Plane—which did not appear until 2008 Ali Smith however in Winter seems to be writing about Brexit and T—may his name remain anathema—as it happens Barely a month could have passed between the time Lord Soames in the House of Commons wolf whistled at a rather attractive female member and when Smith began writing about it The facts are so uickly appropriated and set down that they feel raw unprocessed piecemeal This gives the novel the feel of a tabloid I don’t want my novels filled with current events I read than ever now for a novel’s ability to create an alternative world I don’t read fantasy but I can see why readers are drawn to fantasy now I understand the need for escapism and thus relief I’m not putting Smith’s experiment down but I do admit to not understanding it John Gardner once wrote about how we read to be immersed in the dream Well there’s no dream here Instead the novel reimmerses us in the topicality we thought we’d put aside In this age of news hitting you 247 from dozens of content sources is this what we really want—the news invading our novels too? I much prefer the sections here set in the past perhaps because there’s some consensus on what those times meanBy contrast in Smith’s Autumn the news was sufficiently backgrounded amid a wonderful story of a girl and an old man and how their lovely relationship evolves over talks of books and painting over 30 years Hints of the current unpleasantness arise but do not overwhelm the narrative as they do here

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House in Cornwall for Christmas will there be enough room for everyone?Winter It makes things visible In Ali Smith's Winter life force matches up to the toughest of the seasons In this second novel in her Seasonal cycle the f ‪I’ve so many thoughts I can’t uite sum up the brilliance of Ali Smith’s Winter other than by saying it’s blown me away It’s like a great conversation that makes you think all the thoughts I’ve loved it ‬I’ll review properly when my brain stops fizzing from the immediacy of reading it


About the Author: Ali Smith

Ali Smith is a writer born in Inverness Scotland to working class parents She was raised in a council house in Inverness and now lives in Cambridge She studied at Aberdeen and then at Cambridge for a PhD that was never finished In a interview with writing magazine Mslexia she talked briefly about the difficulty of becoming ill with chronic fatigue syndrome for a year and how it for.



10 thoughts on “Winter by Ali Smith

  1. says:

    I’d love to chat all day about the seasons but I’ve work to do he saidWhen I first read this book I along with many others missed a key connection between it and the first volume of the uartet Autumn Reading Winter again now after just reading Autumn for the third time I firstly find it hard to believe we all missed that connection and secondly was delighted by how much knowing that connection changes the book for the better I won't in case of spoilers say what that connection is but it has to do with a link between one of the main characters in each book and knowing that link makes Winter a different beast altogether And far enjoyable because of thatAutumn was a collage similar to the art work of Pauline Boty who featured heavily Winter is also a collage retaining the same format of leaping around in time As Smith says That’s one of the things stories and books can do they can make than one time possible at onceAnd this compression or overlaying of time seems to be a key idea in the booksBut the artist of choice in Winter is Hepworth famous for her statues with holes in them So it is perhaps appropriate that Art one of the main characters says at one point So I think of him and I think of the word father and it’s kind of like there’s a cut out empty space in my head I uite like it I can fill it any way I like I can leave it emptyAnd we as readers who know something about Art that he does not know himself can relate to what Smith has someone say about Hepworth Yes he says and she does that Hepworth I think puts the holes through what she makes because she wants people to think about exactly what you just said time and ancient things but also because she really just wants them to want to touch what she makes you know to be reminded about things that are uite physical sensory immediate he saysArt's statement about his father means something to us or at least something differentHaving read Autumn and Winter back to back over the last 2 3 days I am inordinately excited about the upcoming release of Spring which is why I have re read these first two because my re reads have definitely given me of picture of what Smith is doing overall in her uartet the way she is compressing and overlaying time the way she is drawing parallels between past and present the way and because the brief comments I have seen about Spring I am trying to avoid them but some sneak through suggest this starts to come to fruition in the next volume ORIGINAL REVIEW Ok so I am biased and it may be that Ali Smith gets an extra star simply for being Ali Smith But even then when you stop to consider what Smith has done in this second book of her seasonal uartet it is breathtaking Ali Smith has her own uniue style Given her very obvious love for Dickens and all things Dickensian I wanted to say her style is Smithsonian but someone else has already appropriated that word No one writes like Smith with such joy in wordsAt the Man Booker short list event in Cheltenham Smith spoke about the difficulties of time in the novel In a piece of music several people can sing at the same time and about different topicstimes if that’s what the composer wants In a novel we can only read one set of words at a time And this is a frustration for some novelistsIn Winter Smith plays with this idea of time in a novel This makes for a fairly complicated structure to the book which consists of multiple flashbacks and flash forwards It can be tricky to keep track of all the different threads being covered That’s one of the things stories and books can do they can make than one time possible at onceWell they can when Smith writes themWe are dealing with four main characters Sophia her sister Iris her son Art Arthur and a girl Art has paid to pretend to be his girlfriend for Christmas with his mother Lux Art needs a girlfriend because he has just broken up with Charlotte who was supposed to be spending Christmas with him at his mother’s but she is now instead sabotaging his Twitter feed to such an extent that he dares not turn on his phoneLux is a fascinating character somewhat reminiscent of Amber in The Accidental who arrives and disrupts a family occasion Lux is of course both the bringer of light and a soap And in this story the girl called Lux brings both illumination and cleansing She is not British but she came to the UK because of Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline Cymbeline he says The one about poison mess bitterness then the balance coming back The lies revealed The losses compensatedAnd that’s what Winter is about Sophia and Iris have fallen out and not spoken for many years Art has broken up with Charlotte Then Lux happensAnd in the mix with this story of a family gathering Christmas is in Winter and Christmas is about family gatherings Smith flashes back and forwards to earlier times in Sophia’s and Iris’s history Primarily amongst many other historical references she visits the Greenham Common protests and pulls them forward to todayIt seems to me that one of the things Smith is trying to do in her uartet is ground or embed the events and attitudes of our current time in their underlying history She wants to unite “now” and “then” because “now” means very little unless you understand “then” In Winter “now” very much is “now” we cover events up to the summer of 2017Brexit and its implications are still part of the story Christmas and “no room at the inn” is paralleled with UK and “no room” Trump is part of the storyAnd as with Pauline Boty in Autumn there is a female artist In Winter this artist is perhaps mentioned fewer times or in less detail Update this comment comes from my ignorance of Hepworth some basic research after reading shows that she is actually present if not named from the very beginning but her role in the overall aim of the story is very clear She is Barbara Hepworth Yes he says and she does that Hepworth I think puts the holes through what she makes because she wants people to think about exactly what you just said time and ancient things but also because she really just wants them to want to touch what she makes you know to be reminded about things that are uite physical sensory immediate he saysHepworth’s work is like what Smith is aiming for and for me achieving in the way she seeks to unite past and present In a comment on Hepworth there is a uote that it seems to me applies eually to Smith’s writing She walks round the sculpture It makes you walk round it it makes you look through it from different sides see different things from different positions It’s also like seeing inside and outside something at onceAnd also in a comment that could apply eually to Smith’s writing we read of Kepler Kindred means family what I’m saying is he thought that truth and time are sort of related family to each otherAnd And he was a man who paid things attention up close as well as far awayWinter contains far meditation on the season it is named after than Autumn did That’s what winter is an exercise in remembering how to still yourself then how to come pliantly back to life again the shift the reversal from increase of darkness to increase of light revealed that a coming back of light was at the heart of midwinter eually as much as the waning of lightI could write for hours about this book but I cannot do it justice and the best thing is if you read it for yourself Everyone should read it especially the final uarter which made me laugh and cry in eual measure One final uote which really made me laugh The man who wrote the dictionary Johnson Not Boris The opposite of Boris A man interested in the meanings of words not one whose interests leave words meaninglessAnd I haven’t even talked about the floating head or the floating coastline


  2. says:

    You're reading the book about the leaves again It's not the same book Same cover image different seasonSo no leaves floating about in this one?No leaves But lots of floatersLike eye floaters?Those and othersYou do like your enigmasPlastic floating across the oceans is no allusive enigma it's very realOh right serious floaters I won't make the joke that wasOr floaters as in people with no fixed place to sleepAnd this book is called Winter? BrrrOr chemicals floating about in the atmosphere causing havoc in the food chainIs there nothing fun in this Winter book I mean like Christmas?You want Christmas? This book does Christmas with layers Layers of Christmasses one on anotherOh good Any snow flakes floating about?Something white and granular at any rate Possibly nuclearDon't massacre Christmas pleaseTo paraphrase the book you've done it yourselfMe? I love Christmas I especially love the games we played at ChristmasGames? There are games floating through these pages alright Word association gamesOh let's play a word association game I'll begin RobinHatredNo You're supposed to say Holly or Berry or Red or somethingI was thinking Red Red as in hatred Red as in tortured Red as in massacred Ugh This book has warped your mind I'll just pretend you said Red and I'll answer GreenGreenham Common Nuclear holono Stop You're warping my mind now WoofBarking mad That's what you are And herAli Smith? You're barking up the wrong tree if you think she's crazy There's no one saner She can see the underlying fabric of our world clearer than most Prove itIt's as if she's a torch on high beam shining light into every corner of our time She's even inside my head directing her spotlight into the recesses of my memory Grocer Jack and then out through my eyes so that I can't but see the world clearly myself It's no accident that the characters with most insight in this book are called Lux and IrisAli Smith does sound clearsighted and bright and wiseSnap There's a character called after Wisdom Sophia Though she's sometimes called Philo and she's a bit of a sophistA philosopher do you mean?Well a philosopher lite perhaps philo as in phyllofilo pastry according to her sister There's a character called Art too But Ali Smith makes him the most irrelevant of all the characters which is odd given the focus she usually gives to art in her books and in this one too in a way Very odd indeed I'm pretending to see what you mean But do carry onWell I was reminded of various pieces of art as I read the early pages of this book I kept thinking of a Brancusi piece like this oneand eventually a completely smooth one like this oneAnd they both reminded me of Barbara Hepworth's sculptures which were mentioned briefly in Autumn like this one for exampleOr this one containing a little shape as smooth as a Brancusi Hmm They are very beautiful but kind of enigmatic What do they mean? Well the thing is Hepworth's sculptures turn up again in Winter and they led to an explosion of understanding for me as a reader I saw them as representing both books What was absence in one was presence in the other what was loss was gain what was missing was found But neither book had a monopoly on the lost and found or on the absence and the presence Both contain both And I came to realise that all the themes from the first were threaded through the second the movement of peoples the lies of politicians the brutality of soldiers the accumulations of useless stuff sister versus sister and of course art versus politics So you were reading the same book after all Yes Both contain both And when Spring comes out I know I'll find a third layer of the same warp and woof I can't wait to read itconversation continued in Spring


  3. says:

    Winter is the second book I’ve read by Ali Smith Public Library and Other Stories was the first one Both times I had to recalibrate my brain according to the following rules in order to enjoy the reading experience Slow down – the book is short but you can’t speed through it Give in to the lack of linearity – allow yourself to float and flit in time Open up to the impressionistic feel of the story and language – working too hard to understand what’s happening seems to defeat the pointThe book is told primarily through the voice and eyes of aging Sophia and her adult son Art The hub of the narrative is a Christmas in England when Sophia Art Sophia’s sister and Art’s pretend girlfriend come together in Sophia’s house Sophia’s mind seems to be failing so her thoughts skip to different time periods all the while revealing her as challenging and prickly Art is a tad odd too somewhat awed and beleaguered by his mother trying or less to make sense and gain some control over his own lifeIn the background contemporary news flows in from time to time referring to Trump as the US president suggesting political chaos beyond the personal chaos of these charactersI’m not really doing Winter and Smith justice Winter is not a book for everyone but I really enjoyed the writing the characters and feel of it once my brain fell in sync with the book’s sensibilityThank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy


  4. says:

    This isn’t a ghost story though it’s the dead of winter when it happens a bright sunny post millennial global warming Christmas Christmas too dead and it’s about real things really happening in the real world involving real people in real time on the real earth uh huh earth also dead And here’s another version of what was happening that morning as if from a novel in which Sophia is the kind of character she’d choose to be prefer to be a character in a much classic sort of story perfectly honed and comforting about how sombre yet bright the major symphony of winter is and how beautiful everything looks under a high frost how every glass blade is enhanced and silvered into individual beauty a story in which there is no room for severed heads In which Sophia’s perfectly honed minor symphony modesty and narrative decorum complement the story she’s in with the right kind of uiet wisdom from experience ageing female status making it a story that’s thoughtful dignified conventional in structure The kind of uality literary fiction where the slow drift of snow across the landscape is merciful The second in Ali Smith’s seasonal uartet which started with the Booker shortlisted Autumn The basic plot is an unusual family Christmas reunion – Art goes to visit his mother Sophia a once successful business woman who ran businesses selling third world craft items and then artificially distressed furnishings with her business now failed she still has her huge Cornish mansion – one which she first visited when it was occupied by a commune including her now estranged older sister Iris a long time social activist and rebel Art an insincere nature blogger has just broken up with his environmentally active girlfriend Charlotte – and pays a Croatian girl Lux he meets at a bus stop to impersonate Charlotte for the weekend She invites Iris to join themSophia opens the book by looking at a postcard of Eduoard Boubat's La Petite Fille Aux Feullies Mortes the same postcard that Daniel Gluck in Autumn sent to a younger lady called Sophie something on a visit to Paris Daniel himself is not named in Winter but a comparison of incident's described in the two books from Daniel and Sophia's viewpoints respectively make it clear that Daniel is in fact Art's fatherhttpswwwartsynetartworkedouardHowever so than the overlap of characters “Winter” shares many similarities in style and approach with its predecessor and it is clear that Smith is treating this uartet at least on the evidence of its first two elements as a single body of artistic workSimilarities I observed between the two books An rhythmical opening chapter clearly designed to be read aloud with her the “All across the country “ of Autumn replaced with “ is dead” of Winter The extensive use of wordplay and punning – and a character who delights in this and expanding other character’s appreciation of language ironically but presumably very deliberately given the immigration and Brexit ideas running through both books in both cases a non native English speaker In Autumn Daniel broadens the language of the young Elisabeth in Winter Lux has a great grasp of English language and literature and her own name serves as a pun at one stage LuxLexiography A deliberate coverage of immediately contemporary events woven through the text here – Grenfell Tower Nicholas Soames “woofing” at a female labour MP in the commons Theresa May’s “citizen of the world” speech the crowdfunding by the far right of a ship to block immigrant rescues A concentration on one overarching contemporary theme – with Trump being the Winter euivalent of Autumn’s Brexit vote A distinct left of centre liberal bias to the political commentary one which in my view unfortunately in the days of social media echo chambers is only likely to reinforce rather than challenge the world view of Smith’s readers You will look in vain for any criticism of Labour politicians for example A link between past political actions and the politics of today – part of the concept of seasonality that Smith set out to explore when she commenced the uartet – the concept that our real energy our real history is cyclic in continuance and at core rather than consecutive and how closely to contemporaneousness a finished book might be able to be in the world and yet how it could also be all through very much about stratified cyclic timeIn Autumn very deliberate parallels are drawn between the Profumo scandal and the Brexit vote – the concept of the lies of those in power In Winter the environmental and climate change activism of Charlotte Art’s ex girlfriend and the refugee involvement of the modern day Iris are linked directly to the Silent Spring inspired environmental activism of the commune where Iris lives many years before and her role in the Greenham Common protests Interestingly the message here is much positive than Autumn that the abuses of those in power can overtime be overcome by year’s of protest and activismSmith’s concept of cyclic time and also perhaps the reason for the positive take on events in this season are bought together when Sophia is listening to Christmas music which intrinsically means a revisiting It means the rhythm of the passing of time yes but also and so the return of time in its endless and comforting cycle to this special point in the year when regardless of the dark and the cold we shore up and offer hospitality and goodwill and give them out a bit of luxury in a world primed against them both A cover featuring trees and with trees appearing as an image throughout the book This is no coincidence as in an interview on the significance of trees for the uartet Smith says Trees are great Don't get me started about how clever they are how oxygen generous how time formed in inner cyclic circles how they provide homes for myriad creatures how back when this country was covered in forests the word for sky was an old English word that meant tops of trees The sweetness they create The things they help us create The pollination they make possible their utter mellow fruitfulness Their gestural uprightness plus bendiness their suppleness in all weathers Their shelter Their ingenuity with colours and with looking after themselves seasonally Their organic relation to books In Winter the significance of trees is bound up with the importance of colour Smith emphasises here that green specifically evergreen is as much the colour of winter as white and also that green is an ancient colour of moss and first which pre dates the other colours of nature Again I feel that this is a nod to the optimistic parts of the season that this book is starting to explore I could not help seeing a link between the evergreen trees which maintain their colour through the winter months and the clear link Smith draws between the 70s Environmental protests the Greenham common protests and the pro immigrant and anti climate change activism of the present day A concentration on a certain decade 1960s for Autumn 1980s for Winter although perhaps less coherently than in Autumn given that Hepworth died in the 1970s so that the 1980s actions is around people visiting her studio rather than Hepworth's own life in that time I understand Spring will be 1920s based and Summer 1940s based The firm SA4A Smith Ali uartet Autumn serving as a symbol for the threat of faceless and almost unknown multinationals In Autumn we see SA4A as a uasi police private security firm here Art works for their entertainments division to enforce copyright on emerging artists The symbolism of fences and commons – in Autumn Elisabeth’s mother is shocked by a fence erected on a common near her home the fence serving a metaphor for Brexit in Winter Iris chains herself to a fence at the very start of the Greenham Commons protests I understand that for Smith one of the key stories in the book is the tale of the initial Greenham common protestors visiting a hardware store to buy chains and padlocks and this set off for her the image of a chain reaction and her view that this initial small actions lead ultimately to nuclear disarmament A lady struggling with high street bureaucracy – here Autumn’s passport service of the Post Office is substituted by the financial advisers of high street banks A relatively unknown and now female artist – here the sculptor Barbara Hepworth in Autumn the pop artist Pauline Boty Both artists died tragically Boty of cancer Hepworth of a fire in her studio and both could be said to be unfairly overshadowed by men working in the same field and broad style Warhol and Henry Moore respectively – with Smith looking to deservedly restore their reputationAs an aside I have to confess that for four years I attended a Cambridge college whose centrepiece was one of Hepworth's sculptures Four Suare Walk Through but that for years I falsely attributed the sculpture to Henry Moore who also had a strong link to the college and was an honorary fellow it is fascinating to note that Barbara Hepworth was herself a founder member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament A male character with a past link to that artist and who collected that art Daniel with Pauline Boty here substituted by Art’s real father’s love of Barbara Hepworth a pilgrimage to Cornwall to see the studio in which she lived and died leads to him meeting Art’s mother Actual works of art of the artist figuring in the book and sparking a character’s imagination – in the same way Elisabeth looks at a book of Boty’s paintings Art’s mother views a Hepworth sculpture I believe “Nesting Stones” owned by his father – crucially she takes one of the two stones and brings it out from its hiding place in the present timeAs an aside the concept of two nesting heads is a recurring one through the novel Art as a child with Sophie Lux with Art Iris and Sophie as children and then later as adults The character’s reaction to the art serving as a very deliberate metaphor for what Smith is trying to do in her uartet In Autumn Elisabeth comments on one of Boty’s paintings The cow parsley The painted flowers Boty’s sheer unadulterated reds in the re image ing of the image Put it together and what have you got? Anything useful? which echoes a uestion Smith asked of herself in an interview as she started work on the concept We'll see what happens I have no idea how the reality will meet the conception I'm looking forward to finding outIn Winter Sophia comments of the Hepworth sculpture It makes you walk around it it makes you look through it from different sides see different things from different positions It’s also like seeing inside and outside something at once which is a perfect metaphor for how Smith's writing forces us to examine our world References to classic literature including by Shakespeare and Dickens; in Autumn The Tempest and A Tale of Two Cities here Cymbeline and A Christmas Carol Set alongside the high brow cultural references the influence of TV light entertainment in Autumn we had the game show and minor celebrity participant and clear Harry Hill influences; here Art’s step father was a sitcom star and at times Smith explicitly references an imaginary sitcom studio audience reacting to the action of the book The mixing of the real and the imaginary and the mixing of time periodsIn Autumn much of the book is set in dreams imagination or memory and at times we are unclear even whose memory we are in or even how real the memories are –for example much of the dialogue between the young Elisabeth and Daniel may in fact be Daniel merging memories of his sister’s precocious wordplay In Winter there are numerous memories and flashbacks but the real imaginary aspect is provided by two floating elements seen only by one character Sophia has a floater which then turns into a child’s head metamorphoses through an old man and a green man and then seems to ultimately transform into the stone that she has kept from Hepworth’s “Nesting Stones” The disembodied head seems to have come to Smith as the concept of society “losing its head” I voting for Brexit but I also thought the concept of a head acting alone from is body could apply to Trump More mysteriously Art sees a floating piece of coastline – possibly inspired by his sub conscious guilt over a continual dream Charlotte had and which was ignored by him of uartering herself as a symbol for the possible break up of Britain possibly by her warning about the piece of coastline the size of Wales imminently to break off the Antarctic shelf and possibly a nod to the inspiration Hepworth took herself from the North Yorkshire coastline of the family holidays of her childhood and which she later sought in the Cornish coast The concept of time containers When discussing the uartet Smith commented But we're time containers we hold all our diachrony our pasts and our futures and also the pasts and futures of all the people who made us and who in turn we'll help to make in every one of our consecutive moments minutes days years In Autumn this concept was captured particularly in Daniel’s dreams and his memories of his fleeing from Nazi Germany and of his brilliant sister killed in the holocaust In Winter the concept is even explicit When discussing Art’s visions of the floating coastline Lux explains what she calls her own coastline One of my mother’s uncles was doing the family three thing when I was about ten and he showed me my place on the map of people he’s made I was down at the bottom I looked at the names above mine going back in time all the centuries that the names meant and I thought look at all the people over my head real people and all related to me a part of me and I know nothing absolutely nothing about almost all the people on that map When I was seventeen walking along a street in Toronto I knew for the first time what I was I am carrying on my head not just one container or basket but hundreds of baskets all balanced on each other full to their tops with bones and they were so heavy that either I was going to have to offload them or they were going to drive me down through the pavement to the ground Later when saying farewell to Art and failing to persuade him to engage with his mother she reacts to his assertion that he has nothing in common with Sophia with the angry comment we as humans have the chance to know where we came from To forget it to forget what made us where it might take us it’s like I don’t know Forgetting your own headGiving of course another explanation of the floating head – that it represents the dislocation of Art from his mother And also interesting acting as partly a counter balance to the liberal pro immigration anti Brexit message of the story as Lux's argument partly picks up on David Goodhart's arguments in The Road to Somewhere The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics which ideas much as I suspect Lux and Smith would hate to admit this were behind May's citizen's of nowhere speech The examination of dysfunctional parentchild relationships In Autumn of course Elisabeth and her mother but here not just Art and Sophia as discussed above and critiued by Lux but between Sophia and her own father In a beautifully touching but achingly sad vignette Sophia's father contacts her when she is a successful business woman when he hears that Laika the space dog only lived for a few hours as he still remembers how upset the child Sophia was at Laika orbiting earth for a week before dying Lux also reveals to Sophia that the effects of the Yugoslavian wars have left her family war wounded such that she cannot live with themOverall I felt this was an outstanding novel and stronger than the already strong AutumnIn particular I felt that the tale was nuanced I have already commented above on Lux's reflections on the need to understand where we have come from Interestingly over time the Brexit supporting business focused Sophia with her childhood sensitivity and worries her brief affair with Art's father and resulting exposure to the art of Hepworth and others with her run in with some form of security services emerges as a much deeper and rounded individual than she is seen by Art and initially by the reader whereas the left wing anti Brexit pro refugee Iris emerges as simply a serial rebel and protestorFinally I feel that despite much of the despair Smith and the characters have with the contemporary world and politics there is a uiet optimism building in this book a hope that decency and goodness will prevail The setting of the book starting on the day of the Winter Solstice is important and Sophie one night reflects the shift the reversal from increase of darkness to increase of light revealed that a coming back of light was at the heart of midwinter eually as much as the waning of light


  5. says:

    OK I surrender Upgraded to 5 stars as Ali Smith has made complete fools of us all myself includedEveryone spent so long looking for micro links between the two novels no one at least not in any review on GR as at 9 November 2017 had spotted other than as the merest teasing hint the glaring and very explicit link between the two books the Daniel Sophie tryst in Paris that is in the first pages of Autumn and the last pages of Winter complete with dates and details The mundane truth was he’d bought that postcard Boubat he took it when he visited the city of love with yet another woman he wanted to love him but she didn’t course she didn’t a woman in her forties a man in his late sixties well be honest nearer seventy and anyway he didn’t love her either Not truly Matter of profound mismatch nothing to do with age since at the Pompidou Centre he’d been so moved by the wildness in a painting by Dubuffet that he’d taken his shoes off and knelt down in front of it to show respect and the woman her name was Sophie something had been embarrassed and in the taxi to the airport told him he was too old to take off his shoes in an art gallery even a modern oneIn fact all he can remember of her is that he’d sent her a postcard he wished afterwards he’d kept for himselffrom WinterAnd she even anticipated my review of Winter when she wrote Autumn The first line of the last chapter It was early November like Winter than Autumn Ali Smith a true genius Early November still Autumn an odd time to launch a book called Winter The clocks have gone back making it dark by mid afternoon Cold mornings make you wish you’d worn a coat but then overcrowded overheated commuter trains made you wish you hadn’t And as the Halloween goods are cleared from the shelves Christmas goods replace them and Slade The Pogues and Jona Lewie are prematurely piped into packed shopping centres But The thing about Christmas music that’s particularly interesting she thought to herself in a knowledgeable but not offputting Radio 4 voice as if in a programme on Christmas music is that’s it’s thoroughly ineffectual it just won’t and doesn’t work at any other time of the year So perhaps this just wasn’t the right time for me to read this One for me to revisit when it figures in the 2018 awards or perhaps in Spring 2019 when the third book comes out But it felt like a re working of Autumn from an author whose biggest strength has been her originality with The Accidental thrown in as well And this Irish Times review summed up the political side of the novel well In lieu of a proper review read those by Gumble's Yard Neil Eric or Robert for a favourable takeMy Ali Smith seasonal uartet bingo cardThe Edouard Boubat image which Daniel gave to Sophie and each character recalls in the opening chapter of Autumn and Winter respectivelyThe Barbara Hepworth the cornerstone artist from Winter statue from my old College a piece of art the students were allowed if not encouraged to climb on and through with the room in which I spent 1987 8 on the right hand side But here's the thing many students myself included attributed the work to Henry Moore whose sculpture also featured there rather making one of Ali Smith's points about overlooked female artistsAli Smith who in person if not always on the page is perhaps my favourite author presenting my daughter with a copy of Autumn in Wimbledon a place that forms perhaps the key link between the two books


  6. says:

    ‪I’ve so many thoughts I can’t uite sum up the brilliance of Ali Smith’s Winter other than by saying it’s blown me away It’s like a great conversation that makes you think all the thoughts I’ve loved it ‬I’ll review properly when my brain stops fizzing from the immediacy of reading it


  7. says:

    uite enjoyed this though for me it lacked the urgency inspiration and poetry of Autumn At times it read like an inferior version of the same novel Perhaps though my bad for reading this immediately after finishing Autumn I've got a feeling a six month time lapse would have helped me enjoy it Centrepiece of the novel is a Christmas lunch I certainly identified with the presentation of Christmas as a time when all family conflicts are unwrapped along with the presents As in Autumn there's a kind of magical MC aspiring to reconciliation This is Lax a character very reminiscent of the sprite in her earlier novel The Accidental and less compelling than Autumn's similar spirit Daniel Then we have a son who lives online and as a result all of his natural feeling is iced over and two warring sisters who have taken opposing paths in life Iris the mythologiser and human rights activist and Sophia the pragmatist and successful business woman Everything bad about modern Britain gets a shoe in and is outsourced to Shakespeare's Cymbeline for a damning overview Scrooge also features the ghost of Christmas past a decapitated head which was the part of the novel that alienated me Resident artist is Barbara Hepworth but nowhere near as compelling as Autumn's resident artist Pauline Boty Winter begins rather messily Smith in her dressing gown and slippers again but does get better and better Autumn though was accomplished and inspired in my opinion 35 stars NB Last night on the ITV news the newscaster was compelled to ask what kind of country we are becoming in the UK after the story of the Syrian refugee boy being physically attacked at school I couldn't help but think of the fundamental message of these Ali Smith books and how essential and pressing it is


  8. says:

    Martin Amis said that there seems to be a reuisite period of time before one can write about historical events especially catastrophes He was referring to 9 11 and his first publication about it—The Second Plane—which did not appear until 2008 Ali Smith however in Winter seems to be writing about Brexit and T—may his name remain anathema—as it happens Barely a month could have passed between the time Lord Soames in the House of Commons wolf whistled at a rather attractive female member and when Smith began writing about it The facts are so uickly appropriated and set down that they feel raw unprocessed piecemeal This gives the novel the feel of a tabloid I don’t want my novels filled with current events I read than ever now for a novel’s ability to create an alternative world I don’t read fantasy but I can see why readers are drawn to fantasy now I understand the need for escapism and thus relief I’m not putting Smith’s experiment down but I do admit to not understanding it John Gardner once wrote about how we read to be immersed in the dream Well there’s no dream here Instead the novel reimmerses us in the topicality we thought we’d put aside In this age of news hitting you 247 from dozens of content sources is this what we really want—the news invading our novels too? I much prefer the sections here set in the past perhaps because there’s some consensus on what those times meanBy contrast in Smith’s Autumn the news was sufficiently backgrounded amid a wonderful story of a girl and an old man and how their lovely relationship evolves over talks of books and painting over 30 years Hints of the current unpleasantness arise but do not overwhelm the narrative as they do here


  9. says:

    45 Stars ”God was dead to begin with“And romance was dead Chivalry was dead Poetry the novel painting they were all dead and art was dead Theatre and cinema were both dead Literature was dead The book was dead”“Love was deadDeath was deadA great many things were deadSome though weren’t or weren’t dead yet”“Imagine being haunted by the ghosts of all these dead things Imagine being haunted by the ghost of a flower No imagine being haunted if there were such a thing as being haunted rather than just neurosis or psychosis by the ghost if there were such a thing as ghosts rather than just imagination of a flower”“this isn’t a ghost story though it’s the dead of winter when it happens a bright sunny post millennial global warming Christmas Eve morning Christ too dead and it’s about real things really happening in the real world involving real people in real time on the real earth uh huh earth also dead” Winters can be isolating leaving one feeling alone and desolate Depressed Fearful Too many hours of darkness And cold The landscape appears picked clean except where it is covered with snow It is natural an instinct perhaps to be filled with caution when surrounded by a cold uninviting world reshaped reformed redesigned perhaps even if it is the one we’ve found ourselves in before – in one sense or another Smith brings you into the season where life seems fragile; where you’re looking at a world coated in ice wrapped up in the ‘fake news’ reports of the day and seats you at the family dinner table for a Christmas get together when Smith’s four main characters include a son Art his mother Sophia his Aunt Sophia’s sister Iris and his make believe pretend Croatian Canadian girlfriend Lux pretending to be his former girlfriend Charlotte who broke up with him right before they were due to leave for this delightful holiday with his MumThe thing about Art is that he lives or less in his own world oblivious to the world around him Art has a blog ‘Art in Nature’ which he writes based on Google searches and stories he writes that are not strictly ‘fact based’ about his nonexistent visits to these spots He also has a job working for a company researching copyright infringement When Art and Lux Charlotte arrive Lux whose very name speaks of illumination she attempts to lighten Sophia’s life health and emotions and Sophia responds by sharing of herself her stories with Lux than she has with Art As Lux sees Sophia in “not thriving” condition she convinces Art that they should call Iris Sophia’s sister The sisters had a very contentious relationship in the past but Lux is hopeful that Iris will help her sister The four of them not unlike the four seasons of the year each uniue and unlike the other connected by some tenuous thread that binds them together in this moment in time Tying this to Smith’s Autumn are some of the political issues from the past and present time also from Autumn there are some direct connections some easily seen others are slightly hidden An artist that was a significant point of discussion in Autumn is referenced and another female artist features somewhat in Winter A postcard picture referenced There are also some historically relevant social causes discussed comparing the past to the present Brexit Trump the unavoidable topics if you’re basing a story in this time and placeI really loved Ali Smith’s Autumn and I was hoping that I would have similar feelings to those I’d had with Autumn when it came time to read Winter I was not disappointed ”God help us every one” US Pub Date 9 Jan 2018Many thanks for the ARC provided by First to Read


  10. says:

    It has taken me a while to get round to this one although its predecessor Autumn was one of my favourite books on last year's Booker list I had too much else to read when this one was released in hardback The new paperback made this an ideal time to catch upIf anything it is even better than Autumn just as topical but with a tighter plot I will start with a uote that for me could eually apply to Ali Smith herself I think you could maybe talk about anything he says There's nothing you wouldn't make interesting Even I'm interesting when you talk about meThere are four main characters Sophia is a retired businesswoman Leaver and Daily Mail reader living in semi retirement in a big house in Cornwall We meet her just before Christmas Her son Art whose name is exploited to the full by Smith writes a nature blog His partner Charlotte has just left him and is sabotaging his blog and rather than admit this to his mother he employs Lux a mysterious stranger to accompany him on a Christmas visit to his mother and impersonate her The fourth is Sophia's sister Iris a seasoned protestor and veteran of the Greenham Common camp who is Sophia's polar oppositeWhen Art and Lux arrive it is clear that Sophia has done nothing to prepare for them Lux suggests inviting Iris who has been estranged from Sophia for years There is an element of A Christmas Carol in the way this plays out with Sophia as Scrooge Lux engineers a partial rapprochement between the sisters As in Autumn there are plenty of asides and subplots the art of Barbara Hepworth and Shakespeare's Cymbeline Lux as an immigrant from a Croatian family in Canada who is effectively homeless and employed in menial warehouse work embodies the most likely victims of Brexit and is the cleverest and most memorable character in the bookI will finish with another uote just because it made me laugh The literature doctor she says The man who wrote the dictionary Johnson Not Boris The opposite of Boris A man interested in the meanings of words not one whose interests leave words meaningless


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