From the peerless author of Autumn and How to be both - the second novel in the Seasonal quartet.
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.
Review by Ben Hunter
Just as with the 2016 Man Booker shortlisted Autumn, Ali Smith’s Winter is a playful, yet moving novel set deep in the moral/political quagmire of post-referendum Britain.
Sophia Cleves, a businesswoman exhausted by age and isolation is Smith’s homage to Scrooge. Like Scrooge, Sophia is being paid visit by a ghost in many forms and is ushered, along with readers, through events past and present. We learn of her estrangement from her sister Iris, an activist newly returned from the European refugee crisis, and of young Art (short for Arthur) with his Art In Nature blog of largely false observations of a world that doesn’t really exist. This family sit side by side with one another but observe their world completely differently, working as a kind of model for a fractured, distressed nation.
Thrust in their midst is Lux, a Croatian girl collected form a bus stop that the substance-less Art pays to impersonate his (now ex) girlfriend Lucy over Christmas. “Lucy” sheds a light into this haunted Cornwell home and, in a way, draws its inmates together.
Winter is a simple yet strange book and I love it for the same reason I loved Autumn. These books have been written quickly to make beautiful the hideousness of our contemporary political climate. Autumn examines the hysterical selfish fear of the “other” that came to fore during the Brexit vote, and Winter looks at our increasingly dangerous fabricated realities and how they work to divide us. It takes a true master to take the banal, hatefulness of the twittersphere and turn it into art and magic.
Cleverly constructed and elegantly written. It's both an engaging human story and a place for wider topical observations. Bring on Spring * Evening Standard *
If Ali Smith's four quartets in, and about, time do not endure to rank among the most original, consoling and inspiring of the artistic responses to 'this mad and bitter mess' of the present, then we will have plunged into an even bleaker mid-winter than people often fear * Financial Times *
Smith is a specialist by now in using a quizzical, feather-light prose style to interrogate the heaviest of material...throughout Winter, grief and pain are transfigured, sometimes lastingly, by luminous moments of humour, insight and connection... Even in the bleak midwinter, Smith is evergreen * Telegraph *
A novel of great ferocity, tenderness and generosity of spirit that you feel Dickens would have recognised...Smith is engaged in an extended process of mythologizing the present states of Britain... Luminously beautiful * Observer *
Graceful... That trademark mischievous wit and wordplay, a joyful reminder of the most basic, elemental delights of reading ... Infused with some much-needed humour, happiness and hope * Independent *
A capacious, generous shapeshifter of a novel taking in Greenham Common and Barbara Hepworth, Shakespeare and global migration, it juxtaposes art with nature and protest with apathy, finding surprising alliances in a family riven by feuds. It's a book with Christmas at its heart, in all its familiarity and estrangement: about time, and out of time, like the festival itself * The Guardian *
Dazzling second instalment of Ali Smith's seasonal quartet * The Daily Telegraph *
A book I can't wait to read for Christmas * The Observer *
Relish this instalment * The Times *
I would like to be given Winter for Christmas * The Observer *
And now looking forward to [Ali Smith's] Winter * Gordon Brown *
And the book I'd most like to find in my Christmas stocking is Ali Smith's Winter * The Observer *
Finally, under the tree this year I'm hoping to find Ali Smith's Winter * The Observer *
It's a brisk, frosty walk under skies that could open at any moment revealing anything but snow * The Observer *
A book I'd like to be given for Christmas: Winter by Ali Smith * The Observer *
It takes you on a journey through time - Christmases past and present in a Dickensian way, but brings you bang up to the present - how can we live our lives and keep our memories and how do we find the truth? It is uplifting and miraculous with plenty of surprises along the way. It is vintage Smith * Jackie Kay *
"Winter" is an insubordinate folk tale, with echoes of the fiction of Iris Murdoch and Angela Carter... There are few writers on the world stage who are producing fiction this offbeat and alluring... [Ali Smith] intends to send a chill up your shanks and she succeeds, jubilantly... Her dialogue is a series of pine cones flung at rosy cheeks * The New York Times *
Smith is routinely brilliant, knowing, masterful... The light inside this great novelist's gorgeous snow globe is utterly original, and it definitely illuminates * New York Times Book Review *
The only preparation required to savor the Scottish writer Ali Smith's virtuosic "Winter" is to pay attention to the world we've recently been living in...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...Smith gives us a potent, necessary source of sustenance that speaks directly to our age...Yet we, like her characters, are past the winter solstice now - the darkest part of the coldest season done. From here on out, we're headed toward the light...It doesn't feel that way, I know. But in the midst of "Winter," each page touched with human grace, you might just begin to believe * Boston Globe *
Winter is a stunning meditation on a complex, emotional moment in history * TIME *
Ali Smith is flat-out brilliant, and she's on fire these days...You can trust Smith to snow us once again with her uncanny ability to combine brainy playfulness with depth, topicality with timelessness, and complexity with accessibility while delivering an impassioned defence of human decency and art * NPR *
The stunningly original Smith again breaks every conceivable narrative rule; reflecting her longstanding affinity for Modernism, what she gives us instead is a stylistically innovative cultural bricolage that celebrates the ecstasy of artistic influence. It demands and richly rewards close attention. [Autumn and Winter] each add to Smith's growing collection of glittering literary paving stones, along a path that's hopefully leading toward the Nobel she deserves. In the interim, we can (re)read "Winter" - and eagerly await the coming of "Spring" * Minneapolis Journal Sentinel *
One of the rarest creatures in the world: a really fearless novelist...her prose is melodic, associative, wise, sometimes maddening...'she shares with Mantel and Ishiguro a sense of human caution, a need to understand, a wariness of the high-handedly authorial. All write with the humility of adulthood * Chicago Tribune *
The second in Smith's quartet of seasonal novels displays her mastery at weaving allusive magic into the tragicomedies of British people and politics...a bleak, beautiful tale greater than the sum of its references * Vulture *
An engaging novel due to the ecstatic energy of Smith's writing, which is always present on the page * Publishers Weekly *
A sprightly, digressive, intriguing fandango on life and time * Kirkus Reviews *
These individuals converge to confront each other in the big shabby house, like characters in a Chekhov play. At first, hellish implosion looms. Slowly, erratically, connection creeps in. Lux quietly mediates. Ire softens. Sophia at last eats something. Art resees Nature..."Winter" gives the patient reader a colorful, witty - yes, warming - divertissement * San Francisco Chronicle *
With Iris and Lux as catalysts, scenes from Christmas past unfold, and our narrow views of Sophia and Art widen and deepen, filled with the secrets and substance of their histories, even as the characters themselves seem to expand. As in Sophia's case, for Art this enlargement is announced by a hallucination - "not a real thing," as Lux tells Iris, whose response speaks for the book's own expansive spirit: "Where would we be without our ability to see beyond what it is we're supposed to be seeing?" * The Minneapolis Star Tribune *