Cover image for Winter / Ali Smith.
Title:
Winter / Ali Smith.
ISBN:
9780670070046
Publication Information:
Toronto : Hamish Hamilton, 2018.
Physical Description:
322 pages ; 22 cm.
Abstract:
"The dazzling second novel in Ali Smith's essential Seasonal Quartet--from the Baileys Prize-winning, Man Booker-shortlisted author of Autumn and How to be both Winter? Bleak. Frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone, so the old song goes. The shortest days, the longest nights. The trees are bare and shivering. The summer's leaves? Dead litter. The world shrinks; the sap sinks. But winter makes things visible. And if there's ice, there'll be fire. In Ali Smith's Winter, lifeforce matches up to the toughest of the seasons. In this second novel in her acclaimed Seasonal cycle, the follow-up to her sensational Autumn, Smith's shape-shifting quartet of novels casts a merry eye over a bleak post-truth era with a story rooted in history, memory and warmth, its taproot deep in the evergreens: art, love, laughter. It's the season that teaches us survival. Here comes Winter."-- Provided by publisher.
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Summary

Summary

"What Smith has achieved in her cycle so far is exactly what we need artists to do in disorienting times: make sense of events, console us, show us how we got here, help us believe that we will find our way through. Often, that's what we lean on the classics for, finding answers in metaphor. But in "Winter," as in "Autumn," Smith gives us a potent, necessary source of sustenance that speaks directly to our age." - The Boston Globe

"There are few writers on the world stage who are producing fiction this offbeat and alluring." - The New York Times

The dazzling second novel in Ali Smith's essential Seasonal Quartet--from the Baileys Prize-winning, Man Booker-shortlisted author of Autumn and How to be both

Winter. Bleak. Frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone, so the old song goes. And now Art's mother is seeing things.

Come to think of it, Art's seeing things himself.
When four people, strangers and family, converge on a 15 bedroom 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 follow-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.


Author Notes

Ali Smith was born in 1962 in Inverness. She is a Scottish writer. She studied at the University of Aberdeen and then at Newnham College, Cambridge, for a PhD. She worked as a lecturer at University of Strathclyde until she fell ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Following this she became a full-time writer[4] and now writes for The Guardian, The Scotsman, and the Times Literary Supplement.

In 2007 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Smith was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to literature. Her short story colection includes: Free Love and Other Stories, The Whole Story and Other Stories, and The First Person and Other Stories. Her novels include: Like, Hotel World, The Accidental, Girl Meets Boy, There But For The, and How to Be Both. She was short listed for the Folio Prize 2015. She won the 2015 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction for her novel How to be Both.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In the solid second entry in Smith's seasonally themed quartet of novels (following Booker Prize-finalist Autumn), three estranged relatives and a charming stranger argue their way through Christmas in a manor house in the English countryside. After splitting up with his longtime girlfriend, Art, a copyright specialist turned nature blogger, decides to pay Lux, a girl he meets at a bus stop, to impersonate her during a visit to the home of his difficult mother, Sophia. Complicating matters is the arrival of Iris, Sophia's activist sister, whose presence dredges up painful memories for Art and Sophia. Interspersed between debates on Brexit, conservationism, and American politics are flashbacks to various episodes from Sophia and Iris's youth, including poignant scenes of Iris's nuclear disarmament protest and Sophia's first encounter with Art's absent father. Like Autumn, the novel employs a scattered, evocative plot and prose style, reflecting the fractured emotional, intellectual, and political states occupied by its contemporary characters. Though the approach misses more than it hits this time out, it's still an engaging novel due to the ecstatic energy of Smith's writing, which is always present on the page. Agent: Andrew Wylie, the Wylie Agency. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


New York Review of Books Review

there's something about novels in trilogies, tetralogies and beyond that gives them a certain allure. It's not the allure of deathlessness, precisely, but maybe the next best thing: delay. We know from the start - whether reading the first in a multivolume set or whether further books have merely been announced - that the disappointment in having to exit the world of this novel will be postponed, that the can will be kickable down the road. The Scottish writer Ali Smith has just published the second of four novels that are being called a seasonal cycle, and there is much to celebrate in this fact, though the allure here (at least so far) is very different from that of other "sets." It's not that the reader is in the same place, or with the same main characters. (The seasons, in real life, barely resemble one another, so why should these books?) But shifting from "Autumn" to "Winter," and then plunging on through the rest of the year, Smith is the one doing the telling, which means the books can't help connecting through various channels, most notably her vast supply of preoccupations. Of course, all writers have preoccupations, refrains, obsessions; and by using the seasons as a thematic tarpaulin that covers the whole enterprise and publishing the volumes in fairly quick succession ("Autumn" appeared here last February) with some exciting, punctuating overlaps, she allows the books to exist at once separately and in comfortable relation. "Winter" opens with the world's temperature being taken. "God was dead: to begin with," Smith writes, riffing on the opening of "A Christmas Carol." "And romance was dead. Chivalry was dead. Poetry, the novel, painting, they were all dead, and art was dead. Theater and cinema were both dead. Literature was dead. The book was dead. Modernism, postmodernism, realism and surrealism were all dead." The catalog goes on and on, branching out to include some not-dead, or at least notyet-dead things. The effect is as if Smith is peering down into the interior of a shakenup snow globe. The narrative quickly narrows, homing in on a large house in Cornwall where, on the day before Christmas, an older woman named Sophia Cleves sits in the presence of the disembodied, suspended head of a child. The head never speaks, it just hovers, bringing to mind Freud's instruction about a psychoanalyst needing to listen with "evenly suspended attention." (In fact, there are several references to Freud in "Winter.") By opening in this dislocating way, then moving back into Sophia's adolescent past and returning to the present in a droll bureaucratic scene at a bank - where Sophia is a "Corinthian account holder, which meant her bank cards had a graphic on them of the top of a Corinthian pillar with its flourish of stony leaves, unlike the more ordinary account holder cards which had no graphic at all" - Smith alerts us early on to the enormously expansive free-range of her vision. Sophia's son, Art (whose name is no accident, since this book examines the meaning and use of art in a world like ours), soon arrives, accompanied by a Croatian-Canadian named Lux, impersonating his longtime girlfriend, Charlotte. The sitcom trope is deposited lightly: Smith is comfortable with the setup, just as she is with her pop culture references. She seems genuinely interested in them because she is interested in the entire culture and its shifts, both glacial and volcanic. After Lux decides that Sophia's estranged, longtime political activist sister, Iris, should be called, the "action" of the novel can be said to begin. But action is a subjective word. For a writer like Ali Smith, the exploration of consciousness itself constitutes satisfying action. So the book, which uses "A Christmas Carol" as one of its organizing principles ("Cymbeline" also appears as a reference), at times leaps from era to era, often with surprising bursts of joy. Along the way, there is much wordplay - "What's a carapace? It's a caravan that goes at a great pace." "I said to your aunt last night. ... Art is seeing things. And your aunt said, that's a great description of what art is" - and a freight of literary and artistic allusions. As in "Autumn," a female artist becomes one of the novel's many subjects. Last time it was the pop artist Pauline Boty and this time it's the sculptor Barbara Hepworth, who provides one of the epigraphs - "Landscape directs its own images" - and whose work figures in a section that subtly and satisfyingly links "Winter" to its predecessor. But where there's art (at least in this book) there's suffering, and politically passionate Iris is the one to draw our attention to injustice: "Tell them about what torture does to a life, what it does to a language." A couple of the protest descriptions feel dutiful, though everywhere else Smith is routinely brilliant, knowing, masterful. Here's an interlude with Art: "He thinks about how, whatever being alive is, with all its pasts and presents and futures, it is most itself in the moments when you surface from a depth of numbness or forgetfulness that you didn't even know you were at, and break the surface and when you do it's akin to - to what? To a salmon leaping God knows where, home against the flow, not knowing what home is." The first two books in Smith's quartet process and employ news items with speed and precision. "Autumn" was considered a Brexit novel, and "Winter" includes references to the presidency of Donald J. Trump and the worldwide women's marches. It also uses Nativity scene/no-room-at-theinn ideas to address the hateful rejection of immigrants now on display. In the past, the kind of books that came out shortly after real-world happenings might have had as their subjects, say, events like the Jonestown massacre, to satiate immediate reader need. There is an immediate reader need here too: We need someone to process and evaluate our political and cultural moment, but it should be someone who is unflinching in the face of bleakness and has great reservoirs of interest in and knowledge of the past. And it helps if that person is extremely funny and seriously angry and experimental and heartbreaking, but never sentimental. And if she's someone who loves the strange power of language. " 'In her ga-what?' Lux says. 'Galoshes,' Art says. 'What a fine word,' Lux says." All multibook "projects" have a kind of ambition and grand vision, but they must also function close up, book by book, chapter by chapter. That is true of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels and Karl Ove Knausgaard's work. (He is writing his own seasonal quartet, having just published "Winter," which is reviewed on the facing page.) While Edward St. Aubyn's Patrick Melrose novels, looked at in the aggregate, are a way to understand family trauma, Smith seems to be using her cycle as a way to process the larger trauma of our breaking, swirling world - over time, over human moments, over seasons. Each novel will give her a new chance to inspect her preoccupations in a different light. In "Winter," the light inside this great novelist's gorgeous snow globe is utterly original, and it definitely illuminates. in a large house in Cornwall, a woman sits in the presence of a hovering, disembodied head. MEG WOLITZER'S next novel, "The Female Persuasion," will be published in April.


Library Journal Review

It's the Christmas season in London, but there is little holiday cheer for Art Cleves. After an acrimonious breakup with his girlfriend, Art receives a barrage of abusive messages in response to a series of fake tweets sent from his account by his vengeful ex. Setting out to visit his mother in Cornwall, he impulsively invites Lux, a multipierced young woman he encounters at a bus stop, and pays her to accompany him and impersonate his ex. What they find when they arrive is a house in disrepair, an empty fridge and larder, and Art's mother, Sophia, in a state of confusion. Seeking help, they enlist Sophia's long-estranged sister, an old radical, to bring some order to the chaos. Over the course of the next few days, Lux serves as intermediary between the family members and helps them uncover long-buried secrets. Verdict This second installment in Smith's seasonal quartet combines captivating storytelling with a timely focus on social issues. Enthusiastically recommended; we're now eagerly awaiting Spring. [See Prepub Alert, 7/31/17.]-Barbara Love, formerly with Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont. © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

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. Modernism, postmodernism, realism and surrealism were all dead. Jazz was dead, pop music, disco, rap, classical music, dead. Culture was dead. Decency, society, family values were dead. The past was dead. History was dead. The welfare state was dead. Politics was dead. Democracy was dead. Communism, fascism, neoliberalism, capitalism, all dead, and marxism, dead, feminism, also dead. Political correctness, dead. Racism was dead. Religion was dead. Thought was dead. Hope was dead. Truth and fiction were both dead. The media was dead. The internet was dead. Twitter, instagram, facebook, google, dead.      Love was dead.      Death was dead.      A great many things were dead.      Some, though, weren't, or weren't dead yet.      Life wasn't yet dead. Revolution wasn't dead. Racial equality wasn't dead. Hatred wasn't dead.      But the computer? Dead. TV? Dead. Radio? Dead. Mobiles were dead. Batteries were dead. Marriages were dead, sex lives were dead, conversation was dead. Leaves were dead. Flowers were dead, dead in their water.      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.      Ghosts themselves weren't dead, not exactly. Instead, the following questions came up:      are ghosts dead      are ghosts dead or alive      are ghosts deadly      but in any case forget ghosts, put them out of your mind because 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 (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): Excerpted from Winter by Ali Smith All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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