Spring

Spring

From the bestselling author of Autumn and Winter, as well as the Baileys Prize-winning How to be both, comes the next installment in the remarkable, once-in-a-generation masterpiece, the Seasonal QuartetSpring will come. The leaves on its trees will open after blossom. Before it arrives, a hundred years of empire-making. The dawn breaks cold and still but, deep in the eart...

DownloadRead Online
Title:Spring
Author:Ali Smith
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Spring Reviews

  • Marchpane

    is the third of Ali Smith’s Seasonal quartet of novels, which examine the current state of Britain through the lives of everyday people. By writing as close to publication as possible, Smith transforms your news feed into something deeply humane and essential. To me, they are balm for the soul.

    A few things you might like to know about the series:

    • These books can be read in any order – but the publication sequence is probably best, keeping the seasons in their natur

    is the third of Ali Smith’s Seasonal quartet of novels, which examine the current state of Britain through the lives of everyday people. By writing as close to publication as possible, Smith transforms your news feed into something deeply humane and essential. To me, they are balm for the soul.

    A few things you might like to know about the series:

    • These books can be read in any order – but the publication sequence is probably best, keeping the seasons in their natural order.

    • They’re not ‘difficult’ books. They might sound high-minded, with so many references to literature and art, but they are very accessible. I’ve never read Rilke or Katherine Mansfield, and only small amounts of Dickens and Shakespeare (certainly not Pericles, which

    invokes), and this didn’t diminish my enjoyment one bit. Smith is clever – really clever – but her intelligence is so warm and generous, her writing never intimidates or alienates the reader. She invites us in as equals, to be an active part of this project and its shining ideas.

    • They’re political books, but it’s not the terse, abstracted politics of most journalism these days.

    is compassion, it is life, it is the human face of political discourse the way only fiction can be. It’s the antidote to antipathy.

    • The four novels will form a larger work (I’m sure it’s no accident that each of the books is divided into 3 parts, just like the movements of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons). Only when

    is published next year will the full scope of this project be revealed.

    While I’ve loved all three,

    is my favourite so far. In this third book, Smith’s techniques are honed to a fine point. What appears to be a meandering narrative, dovetails into a perfect story arc in the most satisfying way. Every tiny detail resounds on multiple levels, not least the references to poetry & art depicting clouds. It’s a perfect metaphor with its layered evocations of spring showers; cyclical Nature; transience; ‘clouded’ as in obscured, muddled or murky; data clouds; overhanging darkness and (maybe) silver linings.

    Comparisons to Dickens are apt. Each book begins with a riff on a famous Dickenisan intro, and they share a playfulness with language, especially names. In

    there’s Florence (flora; spring; foreign), Brit (Britain; also brittle?), Paddy (Ireland), Alda (Auld, Alba = Scotland). Last names are important too: Heal, Lease ('new lease of life'), Smith (forger; someone who makes and repairs). There are differences of course - Smith dispenses with the huge casts of characters, the broad caricatures, the mawkish sentimentality. It’s not so much Dickens’ style but his role that Smith has adopted: as a chronicler, social critic and moralist, wielder of words and the novel as tool/vehicle for social conscience.

    Smith speaks with great urgency about the moral questions of right now, while also reminding us of the grander sweep of history, and that nature’s clock is epochal. But somehow, highlighting our temporal insignificance strengthens her message of connectedness and the imperative to act. Compare this to the pessimism of Richard Powers’ Pulitzer-winning

    , in which our human efforts appear puny and futilitarian; instead, Smith’s zoom-out, zoom-in approach allows us the space to see our moment clearly. In doing so, she restores us to hope:

    .

    From the story of a dancing girl in pagan times who refuses to become a human sacrifice, to a young girl whose persuasive abilities verge on Jedi mind tricks; from the battle of Culloden to the secret underground network known as the Auld Alliance, rebellion marks every page of

    like an explosion of green life breaking free of icy winter. With characteristic wordplay, Smith implores us to ‘revolve’:

    This book about ‘humanising the machine’ reminds us that ‘time’s factory’ brings the renewal of spring after darkness. In this hope we live.

  • Meike

    I'd like to apologize for giving "Spring" only 5 stars, because this rating still fails to reflect the book's genius. In the third installment of her seasonal quartet (after

    and

    ), Ali Smith writes about the human longing to be seen, to have a home in the world and in other people. Once again, the book shines with its exquisite ability to intertwine the personal and the political, to show art as life force as real as human relationships and the natural seasons, and all of that is co

    I'd like to apologize for giving "Spring" only 5 stars, because this rating still fails to reflect the book's genius. In the third installment of her seasonal quartet (after

    and

    ), Ali Smith writes about the human longing to be seen, to have a home in the world and in other people. Once again, the book shines with its exquisite ability to intertwine the personal and the political, to show art as life force as real as human relationships and the natural seasons, and all of that is conveyed in a perfectly orchestrated story written in the most poetic, powerful and innovative prose. Wow, Ali Smith, how the hell do you achieve this?

    "Spring" has two main narrative threads: We meet Richard, an elderly director, who just lost his beloved best friend and collaborator Patricia (Paddy) and falls into a deep depression (people who read the first two parts of the quartet should pay close attention who Richard's daughter is!). Feeling like he lost his emotional home and dissatisfied with his current prospects on the job market, he boards a train and heads north, to Scotland, with no specific destination. The other storyline concerns Brittany, whose name refers to the French region, but she is called "Brit" like the people living in, you know, Britain - if you want to find out how clever this is, check out the history of the French region. Her naming is especially relevant considering that she works in a detention center for migrants who travelled north in search of a better life. One day on her way to work, she meets a young girl named Florence, and they spontaneously embark on a journey to the north...

    All of those people eventually meet and they take some consequential decisions regarding their own ability to truly see others, and thus themselves. Throughout the story, there are some vignettes that poetically reflect modern society, the current political climate and the suffocating effect all the hate that is circulating has on all of us. Once again, the book as a piece of art dicusses other works and artists, thus proving art's power as a catalyst, as a means of expression, a unifying force, and as a resource of solace.

    The whole book manages to feel uplifting, although it discusses rather depressing issues - that's the magic of Ali Smith. She makes the reader feel seen, or as my GR friend Lee put it: This is literature as medicine. Beautiful.

  • Hugh

    Another near masterpiece from Ali Smith's seasonal quartet - in some ways I think this one is the best yet. Once again, she weaves a number of strands in a way which can seem almost random, but the further you get into the quartet, the more the whole seems planned, and everything is there for a reason. I am not going to write a long detailed review - I recommend these, from

    and

    .

    .

    This time the foreground story h

    Another near masterpiece from Ali Smith's seasonal quartet - in some ways I think this one is the best yet. Once again, she weaves a number of strands in a way which can seem almost random, but the further you get into the quartet, the more the whole seems planned, and everything is there for a reason. I am not going to write a long detailed review - I recommend these, from

    and

    .

    .

    This time the foreground story has two main parts. Richard is a TV producer best known for his BBC Plays for Today in the 70s, which were written by his friend Paddy (Patricia), who has recently died. Paddy is a wonderful creation - erudite and perceptive. Richard has been asked to produce a sexed up travesty adapting a novel set in Switzerland in the 1920s about Katherine Mansfield and Rainer Maria Rilke, who lived there at the same time but probably never met (incidentally Mansfield was also the subject of a story in

    , so the links with Smith's earlier work go further than the earlier books in the quartet). Paddy explains the various reasons why the adaptation is risible nonsense, and Richard attempts to escape the project. After her death he takes a train to Scotland, getting off the train at Kingussie on a whim.

    About a third of the way through the focus changes, and we meet Brittany, who works in a detention centre for immigrants (run by SA4A, a big company who also play a part in Autumn and Spring). The staff play linguistic games to make their roles seem less barbaric. She becomes aware of the rumour that a schoolgirl has been walking through the building seemingly invisible to security, and has managed to shame the management into deep cleaning the toilets. The girl, Florence, has elements of Greta Thunberg, offering Smith the chance to humanise some deeply unpleasant subject matter by turning it into a modern fairytale. Britt meets Florence, who has received a postcard of the golf course at Kingussie and is determined to get there. Britt follows her and the pair form a bond.

    The foreground stories are punctuated by set piece soliloquies on the state of the nation and the state of the earth.

    In the final part things get more complicated and these parallel stories intertwine, but I won't spoil that here.

    As always with Smith the story is full of allusions to real people, mostly artists. Tacita Dean is the most prominent visual artist, and in addition to Mansfield and Rilke, Beethoven and Charlie Chaplin play their parts too, as do the Gaelic folksongs of the likes of Julie Fowlis and the story of the battle of Culloden.

    Smith's politics may be too radical for some tastes, but she never loses sight of the human stories, making parts of the book deeply moving. As ever, she delights in wordplay, and once again precocious children play an important part. I am really looking forward to the fourth part and the completion of the project.

  • Collin

    Ali Smith is in deep trouble. How in the world is she going to top this with the next instalment of her Season’s Quartet? This is easily the best novel I have read this year. For me it is almost a masterpiece. I adored Autumn and didn’t think that any of the next three could be as good. I thought Winter was tremendous, but still not as good as Autumn, and then Smith gives us Spring. This book covers the zeitgeist of a fragile England, Brexit, and immigration, and at times the reader feels trappe

    Ali Smith is in deep trouble. How in the world is she going to top this with the next instalment of her Season’s Quartet? This is easily the best novel I have read this year. For me it is almost a masterpiece. I adored Autumn and didn’t think that any of the next three could be as good. I thought Winter was tremendous, but still not as good as Autumn, and then Smith gives us Spring. This book covers the zeitgeist of a fragile England, Brexit, and immigration, and at times the reader feels trapped in a melancholic miasma. However, there is a strain of hope that courses through this miasma, threatening all the time to lead the reader out to freedom.

    Richard Lease is a director of television programs who has just lost his soulmate Paddy. Paddy was his scriptwriter who he had worked with for years, and he finds himself lost, directionless on a sea of doubt after her death. He eventually finds himself at a train station on the tracks lowering his head onto the rail before he is stopped by a young schoolgirl named Florence. With Florence is a woman named Brittany (Hmmmm 😊) who works as an officer at a detention centre. The reason this unlikely pair are together turns out to be that Brittany thinks that Florence is the young girl who walked into her detention centre, spoke with management and somehow miraculously got them to clean the toilets. Florence has taken on a form of mystical presence for Brittany. Then before Brittany realises what is happening Florence has enlisted her help to find a location on a postcard in Scotland.

    The conversations that ensue between the two are quite brilliant, they talk about borders, climate change, Brexit, racism, but it is all hidden in metaphors and allegory. Richard accompanies them on this trip when they all hitch a ride with a woman named Alda who squashes them all into the cab of her coffee truck. Smith does a wonderful job with this road trip, with the conversations that take place and the multiple perspectives of the four. For instance, one chapter may be Richards perspective of a conversation he is having with Alda, and then the next chapter will jump back in time and provide the reader with the same conversation but from Brittany’s perspective listening to them. It works a charm.

    All the characters, as with the other characters in Autumn and Winter are such a joy to read. Florence, even though Richard is the central character, for me is the star of the book, sensational.

    This is a book about politics, with politics seeping into just about every story, but the way Smith has written this novel, you never notice, you are more focussed on the personal level of the current story, and there are some good ones. I particularly like the one about the tribe who sacrifice a young virgin each year to compel the gods to start the new cycle of life. Hints of feminism, as the girl refuses to be sacrificed. Why does the sacrifice have to be a woman? It could easily be argued that a man could be sacrificed in place. A man’s seed starts the cycle of life as well. There is also a reference to a movie where the male star is remembered but nobody remembers the female lead.

    Smith masterfully fits so much into this amazing novel. There is a short chapter in there devoted to online bullying which Smith just throws in there and pulls it off I might add. I admit that there are parts that I have not grasped completely but will be more than happy to return to it again to try to glean a deeper understanding.

    Favourite book this year easily. 5 stars.

  • Bianca

    Damn! This was so good. I practically inhaled it.

    How do I even begin to write a review for this incredible novel... I am unworthy and unskilled.

    Ali Smith is a genius. A creative, very humane genius.

    I am absolutely blown away, yet again.

    This was magical, touching, surreal and so contemporary.

    As it was the case with the previous instalments of this quartet, Smith introduces the reader to another female artist, who has been forgotten. This time is the New Zealander writer Katherine Mansfield, wh

    Damn! This was so good. I practically inhaled it.

    How do I even begin to write a review for this incredible novel... I am unworthy and unskilled.

    Ali Smith is a genius. A creative, very humane genius.

    I am absolutely blown away, yet again.

    This was magical, touching, surreal and so contemporary.

    As it was the case with the previous instalments of this quartet, Smith introduces the reader to another female artist, who has been forgotten. This time is the New Zealander writer Katherine Mansfield, whom I plan to read. Other more famous artists are mentioned, such as Rainer Maria Rilke, Charlie Chaplin, Beethoven and other more contemporary such as Noname, Florence + The Machine (I adore her!).

    The way Smith interweaves the old with the new, the art and the current social issues, is remarkable.

    At the core of this novel is the refugees' plight and how unjustly, horribly, inhumanely they're treated in a country that colonised pretty much half of the world.

    is very accessible while being very smart, filled with symbolism, and art, and history, and current events and issues.

    It is probably my favourite of the three.

    So it's going to my favourites shelf.

    I cannot recommend it enough.

    PS: I forgot to mention how I loved the layout, the fonts, font size, the cover and general physical feel of this book. It was in many ways the cherry on a delicious, gourmet cake. :-)

  • Tracey

    Here we go again, me trying to 'review' an Ali Smith book...

    I think this one, out of the three books written in this seasonal quartet is the one that has affected me most. It is the one, I feel, where Ali Smith has 'vented her spleen' the most, where she has expressed the anger and injustice that we all, as human beings should all be feeling, and expressing it in such a powerful way that I had to take a breather to wipe my tears and get a cup of tea to calm my emotions. (A good stiff whiskey mig

    Here we go again, me trying to 'review' an Ali Smith book...

    I think this one, out of the three books written in this seasonal quartet is the one that has affected me most. It is the one, I feel, where Ali Smith has 'vented her spleen' the most, where she has expressed the anger and injustice that we all, as human beings should all be feeling, and expressing it in such a powerful way that I had to take a breather to wipe my tears and get a cup of tea to calm my emotions. (A good stiff whiskey might have worked better)

    There are connections to the previous 2 books which I'll not go into, because as ever this 'review' is about how I felt reading it. I will however say that like in Winter, one of the characters ( a different one) from Autumn pops up in here.

    This is a powerful and eye opening book that I 'felt' to my core.

    But it's Spring and with spring comes new beginnings, and new hope.

    Latin:Vivunt spe

    definition; Live in hope or they are living in hope.

    A wonderful 5* from me and roll on Summer.

  • Gumble's Yard

    Now with added links after hearing the author speak at Foyles and chatting briefly with her.

    I was delighted to hear that Ali Smith absolutely loves the quest to find links between her books - as she feels it shows an understanding of the fundamental construct of the books and what she is aiming to show by them: that Division is a lie, and that nothing is not Connected.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------

    The third of Ali’s Smith’s seasonal quartet after Autumn and

    Now with added links after hearing the author speak at Foyles and chatting briefly with her.

    I was delighted to hear that Ali Smith absolutely loves the quest to find links between her books - as she feels it shows an understanding of the fundamental construct of the books and what she is aiming to show by them: that Division is a lie, and that nothing is not Connected.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------

    The third of Ali’s Smith’s seasonal quartet after Autumn and Winter.

    A book I started at the beginning of Spring in the UK and finished 24 hours later at the beginning of Autumn in Australia.

    Interestingly at one point, Richard remembers speaking in the past to his (then) future wife, who is crying over the end of Spring

    .

    I found this quote interesting - and somewhat ironical for two reasons: on a personal level, in that I contrived, as noted above, when reading this book to negotiate time differences to escape the onset of Spring and instead spend time in Autumn; On a general level, because in 2018 as covered in

    , Richard is alive and not with his wife - however rather than him finding her there, we as the reader realise she is in fact hiding in the pages of

    as Wendy Demand.

    All of the books feature the firm SA4A (Smith, Ali, Quartet, Autumn) which has served as a symbol of the threat of faceless and almost unknown multinationals. In

    , we see SA4A as a quasi-police private security firm, in

    Art works for their entertainments division to enforce copyright on emerging artists. In

    book Britanny works for them at a UK Immigration Removal Centre.

    But that is far from the only element linking the books. These are common elements I have spotted.

    A wrap around cover featuring a David Hockney picture of a seasonal tunnel of trees: respectively:

    - “Early November Tunnel”,

    - “Winter Tunnel with Snow” and

    “Late Spring Tunnel”

    Endpaper artwork by a key female artist featured in the book:

    - Pauline Boty’s “The Only Blonde in the World”;

    - Barbara Hepworth “Winter Solstice” and

    - Tacita Dean’s “Why Cloud”

    A concentration on the modern day resonances of a historic 20th Century decade:

    - 1960s,

    - 1980s,

    - 1920s. Summer will I feature the 1940s.

    Note that the 1920s link for Spring is related to Katherine Mansfield (who seems to function as a second female artist here alongside Tacita Dean - the two together forming more of the role played by a single artist in the two previous books)

    Of course the key idea of the Quartet is the coverage of immediately contemporary events woven through the text - but each book has a concentration on key overarching themes:

    - the Brexit vote,

    - Trump's election,

    - the issue of borders (both the Irish border and those erected to deter migrations)

    This was a crucial part of the concept of seasonality that Smith set out to explore when she commenced the quartet

    In

    very deliberate parallels are drawn between the Profumo scandal and the Brexit vote – the concept of the lies of those in power. 

In

    , 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.

    In

    the Irish border complications to the Brexit issue are linked to the death of Michael Collins in 1922. 


    A female artist who died tragically (

    - Boty of cancer,

    - Hepworth of a fire in her studio,

    - Mansfield of TB) : that death being important to Paddy persuading Richard to reject the play he is being asked to Direct due to its historical inaccuracy.

    A male character with a past link to that artist or who collected that art:

    Daniel's close relation to Pauline Boty (albeit he actually owns and just before the book, then sells a Hepworth);

    - Art’s father (who of course is Daniel)'s love of Barbara Hepworth;

    - the Collected works of Katherine Mansfield which Paddy leaves Richard in her will. 


    Actual works of art of the artist figuring in the book and sparking a character’s imagination: In

    looks at a book of Boty’s paintings; in

    Art’s mother views a Hepworth sculpture (I believe “Nesting Stones”) owned by his father; in

    Richard visits a gallery to view Dean’s work. 


    The character’s reaction to the art serving as a very deliberate metaphor for what Smith is trying to do in her quartet. 


    In

    , Elisabeth comments on one of Boty’s paintings

    Which echoes a question Smith asked of herself in an interview as she started work on the concept

    
In

    , Sophia comments of the Hepworth sculpture

    which is a perfect metaphor for how Smith's writing forces us to examine our world

    In

    , Richard experiences something of an epiphany viewing Tacita Dean’s cloud pictures:

    Again this seems a metaphor for the more hopeful elements emerging in Smith’s Spring - trying to gives us space away from the clouds which seem to be oppressing our society and help us to see the bigger picture and our fundamental interconnectedness.

    When discussing the quartet, Smith commented

    

In

    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

    the concept is even more explicit when discussing Art’s visions of the floating coastline, Lux explains what she calls her own coastline.

    In

    the idea is I think best captured in the almost interminable 11.29 on the railway platform in Kingussie as Richard reflects on much of his life

    An rhythmical chapter, clearly designed to be read aloud:

    - the famous “All across the country …” chapter which Smith seemed to use in most of her readings;

    the opening “ ….. is dead” chapter;

    has two We Want ..” chapters (one opening and the other voiced by technology giants)

    A key link to a main Shakespeare plays (as well as an opening and seasonally linked Shakespearean Epigraphs and links to other plays).

    The main plays are all one of Shakespeare's late romances:

    - The Tempest,

    Cymbeline,

    – Pericles.

    will therefore feature - The Winter's Tale.

    A key link to a Dickens work:

    – A Tale of Two Cities,

    – A Christmas Carol;

    - The Story of Richard Doubledick

    starts: "It was the worst of times, it was the worst of time"

    A Tale of Two Cities starts "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"

    starts "God was dead: to begin with"

    A Christmas Carol starts: "Marley was dead, to begin with"

    starts "Now what we don't want is facts"

    Hard Times starts "NOW, what I want is, Facts"

    Set alongside the literary references, relationships with TV stars from older years: In

    Wendy participates in a game show and forms a relationship with her minor celebrity participant (a former child TV star); in

    Art’s step-father was a sitcom star; In

    Richard, is an ex- Play for Today Director for TV and meets Paddy, his muse, confidant, closest friend and one-time (actually make that a double - two-time) lover through their collaboration as Director and writer.

    Daniel Gluck, one of the two key characters of

    reappears as an earlier lover of a character in subsequent books - Sophie in

    and Paddy in

    - albeit with a different name in the latter (mistakenly identified as Andy).

    And, as hinted above, we see in Spring the other main character of

    emerging as Richard's daughter.

    In

    - Elisabeth and her mother (as well as her missing father, whose identity we only find out in

    . In

    not just Art and Sophia, but between Sophia and her own father. In

    Richard and his missing daughter

    Both his work and his own life, introduced in each book by Daniel but then passed on in turn to other characters by those who Daniel infused with his love for Chaplin

    Note that play is a fundamental concept to Ali Smith. She remarked at a book event at Foyles that it is important that dramas are called plays, that playfulness and imagination are fundamental to her world view, and that she once heard a comment (which she found very true) that if you watch a group of young animals (for example kittens), if one of the them is not playing it probably is a sign that the animal will not survive for long.

    Art in

    being matched by

    in Spring, as well as Florence and her interaction with the immigration Machine (with perhaps Elisabeth’s surname Demand being the

    equivalent)

    A character who delights in wordplay and expanding other character’s appreciation of language, ironically (but presumably very deliberately given the immigration and Brexit ideas running through the books) in each cases a non-native English speaker.

    In

    , Daniel broadens the language of the young Elisabeth; in

    Lux has a great grasp of English language and literature and her own name serves as a pun at one stage Lux/Lexiography; In

    the character is Florence. 


    A postcard from Daniel to Sophie forms a key link between

    and

    : In

    postcards form a link between Richard and Paddy (and his imaginary daughter) and feature in the stories of Mansfield and Rilke as retold by Paddy.

    In Richard’s letter to the screenwriter Terp (a failed attempt to dissuade Terp from adapting the gentle, literary novel “April” about the near meeting of Mansfield and Rilke in Switzerland in 1922, into a preposterous bonk-buster, he proposes changing the script to a series of postcards, observing

    An early reference (within the first ten pages) to Eduardo Boubat’s “petite fille aux feuilles mortes jardin du Luxembourg Paris 1946.

    In

    Daniel remembers the postcard of it that he bought in Paris in the 1980s.

    In

    , Sophie - the recipient we later realise of the postcard is reminded of the postcard by the disembodied head she starts seeing

    In

    , a disembodied voice (perhaps taken, as we later realise is much of the book, from Florence’s Hot Air book) says “I’m the child who’s been buried in leaves” with a later reference to “children with clothes as ragged as suits of old leaves”.

    The image that Ali Smith first thought of when she envisaged the Seasonal quartet was a fence - and as commented in my opening remarks the key for Ali Smith throughout this quartet was to emphasise that "nothing is not connected" and that "division is a lie"

    In

    Elisabeth’s mother is shocked by a fence erected on a common near her home (the fence serving a metaphor for Brexit); In

    Iris chains herself to a fence at the very start of the Greenham Commons protests. In

    the fences are in the Immigration centre and the replacement of the `commons by enclosures was the first stage of the Highland clearances which feature in the novel.

  • Ilse

    Ali Smith, wordsmith.

    Ali Smith, poet of hope.

    Ali Smith, magician.

    Ali smith, the great connective.

    Ali Smith, wordsmith.

    Ali Smith, poet of hope.

    Ali Smith, magician.

    Ali smith, the great connective.

    Spring might maybe not be my favourite season - autumn is – and yet, like the previous episode

    made me more appreciative of Christmas, reading

    was another transformative experience. It not only opened my eyes again to the delights of the season – the fresh green, the softness of the air and the chirping of the birds when walking to work. The clouds! It also touched me on a deeper personal level: April doesn’t have to be the cruellest month. Nature’s indifference to the human plight – so obvious with every renewal of the cycle of life initiated by Spring - doesn’t necessarily mean we have to sink into a maelstrom of fatalist thinking because we have no impact – change is possible.

    (Tacita Dean)

    Sensuous. Vibrant. Witty. Feisty, pertinent, perceptive. Warm and understanding. Maybe, when reading Spring a second time, I’ll be a bit less at loss for words?

    Hope personified has names – Greta Thunberg, Anuna De Wever, Ali Smith.

  • Violet wells

    Ali Smith has set herself the task of writing these four seasonal novels quickly. To help achieve this she uses the same scaffolding in each of them. She begins with a play on the opening line of various Charles Dickens' works - the great British critic of social injustice. She ghosts in a Shakespeare play - someone/something all us Brits can all be proud of. In each book she offsets the present day with a distant decade of the 20th century. She incorporates into each book a sinister governmenta

    Ali Smith has set herself the task of writing these four seasonal novels quickly. To help achieve this she uses the same scaffolding in each of them. She begins with a play on the opening line of various Charles Dickens' works - the great British critic of social injustice. She ghosts in a Shakespeare play - someone/something all us Brits can all be proud of. In each book she offsets the present day with a distant decade of the 20th century. She incorporates into each book a sinister governmental corporation SA4A. And she filters in the works of a relatively unknown female British artist. In Spring, she calls upon the photographer, Tacita Dean. But here she also drafts in as artists in residence Katherine Mansfield and Rainer Maria Rilke. I haven't read the letters of many authors. In fact, apart from Kafka's letters to Milena and Virginia Woolf's letters, the only books of collected letters I've ever read have been Mansfield's and Rilke's (I lived next door to Rilke's brief home in Florence for a while and so was very curious about him). Both have a special place in my heart. So this should have been exciting. Instead I found the role Mansfield and Rilke were called upon to play in this novel gratuitously madcap and dissatisfying. Ultimately Mansfield and Rilke are called upon to represent the 1920s and mock the sensationalist nature of modern television productions. The lead character in the early part of the novel is a filmmaker and called upon to make a film about a non-existent love affair between Mansfield and Rilke. Smith has fun mocking contemporary TV but there's the implication that television used to be more challenging and sophisticated - a premise that is dubious at best and, ironically, saddles Smith with a form of the make-believe good-old-days nostalgia that prompted so many ageing Brits to vote for Brexit. When, at one point the scriptwriter maintains the Irish problem has to feature in any film about a 1920's meeting of Mansfield and Rilke, my eyebrow lifted in further bafflement. Mansfield and Rilke after all have no more connection to Ireland than they do to Iran or Kenya. Ultimately, I felt Mansfield is too close to Smith to play such a bit role. Mansfield, like Smith, continually sought a lost innocence in her work. Like Smith, she saw the good in people and cleverly juxtaposed it with the corruption of daily life. Though Mansfield rarely, if ever, mentioned the first world war it was ever present in her work as a kind of impassable divide. She was raging against it, much as Smith rages against the machinery of modern life.

    Thankfully the second half of Spring was much more coherent and engaging. Smith's rage now comes to the fore. We're introduced to Brit and her pernicious indifference to the inhumane treatment of the refugees she oversees every day in a detainment institution. If Smith's depiction of how these people are treated is accurate, and there's every reason to believe it is, it's the kind of state apparatus the Nazis wouldn't disdain. Smith deploys another of her magical females - Florence in this case - to argue with Brit. I'm not sure I entirely understood the Brit/Florence dynamic. Usually Smith's innocents help the corrupt see the errors of their ways. In this case, Brit just carries on regardless which made the ending for me a bit of a juiceless lemon.

    There's a sense that Brexit and the various cans of worms it opened was the best gift Ali Smith as a novelist was ever given. It's given her preoccupation with the corruption of innocence an entire nation as a stage. For me Brexit has flung open shutters on how much there is to be ashamed about in our country in the 21st country. Therefore, I'm thankful to Ali Smith not only for addressing these ills but also reminding me how much there is to celebrate in life and take optimism from.

    4.2 stars. For me better than Winter but Autumn is still my favourite. Structurally it was the most cohesively clever. But I'm looking forward to reading them consecutively to see how much I've missed.

  • Fionnuala

    -Ah, you're reading the book with the Hockney cover image again. And the tree now has lots of new leaves, I see!

    -Yes, yes! YES! This is the third book in the series. I'm very excited. Can't turn the pages fast enough!

    -Slow down, no need to rush. No one's calling

    . No one's saying, Read up! Read up!

    -You're right, you're right. I need to be calm and savor every budding idea, every blossoming image.

    -That's it, nice and easy. It's only early

    , after all. And you have so many other books o

    -Ah, you're reading the book with the Hockney cover image again. And the tree now has lots of new leaves, I see!

    -Yes, yes! YES! This is the third book in the series. I'm very excited. Can't turn the pages fast enough!

    -Slow down, no need to rush. No one's calling

    . No one's saying, Read up! Read up!

    -You're right, you're right. I need to be calm and savor every budding idea, every blossoming image.

    -That's it, nice and easy. It's only early

    , after all. And you have so many other books on your book pile. Eliot, Tokarczuk, Ovid. How's

    going by the way ?

    -Too MeToo for me. Too many

    manipulating the powerless. Think of

    . And too many

    . Think of

    . I love trees and leaves, but to be

    inside a tree for ever! Not even a Hockney tree would make that ok.

    -And what about Eliot and Tokarczuk?

    -

    meets Blind Teresias meets

    ! That describes my book pile right now. It's as if all four books I'm reading are linked. Ah,

    . Too many books, not enough time. Not enough time to slow-read, to deep-think, to follow the links, especially between…Tokarczuk…and...

    -I didn't catch what you said there...

    -I was just musing to myself about Ali Smith and Olga Tokarczuk, two powerful twenty-first century writers who share their year of birth: 1962. But they share more than that: their themes and writing styles overlap quite a bit (though

    as far as I know). There's always absence in their work, missing things, unsaid things, the neighbor gone but where, the man with the hollow

    , the

    in the tree trunk, the

    out of the piece of chocolate, loose button holes, people imported, exported, pulled and pushed across borders, missing persons, persons missing. I feel the weight of the 'untold' in their work like pain in an amputated limb.

    -Why do you always live books so intensely! If a character has a certain dream, you have the dream too. Your reading skin's too thin. Is there nothing in your head but..

    -I know, I know.

    , books morph in my mind like in that old Shakespearian rag,

    -Tell you what. You need to do something different, maybe watch a movie.

    -Reading these books

    like watching a movie. I feel I'm the camera, that I have a birds-eye view. I'm flying high over Eliot's Wasteland,

    of cloud floating by, full of all the deleted stuff in the world, photos, documents, lost people, forgotten verses,

    -Sounds like you're high alright! Have you been eating magic mushrooms?

    -Not mushrooms, just air and water up here. Though air and water, like mushrooms, can mean different things to different people. Depends on whether you're imprisoned or free, living or dying.

    -Somehow you've got me thinking of death by water. You always mess with my head when we discuss Ali Smith. And this Tokar chick's just as bad.

    -Oh, yes, Olga Tokarczuk deals with ways of dying too. Her work and Ali Smith's intersect in so many areas: cloud photography, heroes who are humble folk, humanitarian causes morphing with fairy tales, male/female Agnis and Aldas, merging like day and night, orange post nuclear wastelands with no seasons. Yea, even unto

    .

    -Cheerful stuff, no doubt about it.

    -Ah, but there's light peeping out from behind the dark clouds. Do you know what the most important element that unites these two writers is?

    -Tell me.

    -Both are dedicated to

    !

    by Tacita Dean, Artist.

    (review conversation continued from

    and

    )

Best Books Online is in no way intended to support illegal activity. Use it at your risk. We uses Search API to find books/manuals but doesn´t host any files. All document files are the property of their respective owners. Please respect the publisher and the author for their copyrighted creations. If you find documents that should not be here please report them


©2019 Best Books Online - All rights reserved.