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Spring 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 earth, things are growing.


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Spring 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 earth, things are growing.

30 review for Spring

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer

    With Ali Smith's final volume "Summer" due this week - I hope (for those who want to read Summer without revisiting the first three) that this serves as a valuable resource: -------------------------------------------------------------------- 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 With Ali Smith's final volume "Summer" due this week - I hope (for those who want to read Summer without revisiting the first three) that this serves as a valuable resource: -------------------------------------------------------------------- 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 And if you die before me, he says, I will spend all the time I’m alive and not with you negotiating the various time differences across the world so that I can spend as much time as a man possibly can on this planet in springtime’ . 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 Spring, 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 Autumn as Wendy Demand. SA4A 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 Autumn, we see SA4A as a quasi-police private security firm, in Winter Art works for their entertainments division to enforce copyright on emerging artists. In Spring 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. Cover Artwork A wrap around cover featuring a David Hockney picture of a seasonal tunnel of trees: respectively: Autumn - “Early November Tunnel”, Winter - “Winter Tunnel with Snow” and Spring“Late Spring Tunnel” Endpaper artwork Endpaper artwork by a key female artist featured in the book: Autumn - Pauline Boty’s “The Only Blonde in the World”; Winter - Barbara Hepworth “Winter Solstice” and Spring - Tacita Dean’s “Why Cloud” Past Decades A concentration on the modern day resonances of a historic 20th Century decade: Autumn - 1960s, Winter - 1980s, Spring - 1920s. 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) Contemporary events 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: Autumn - the Brexit vote, Winter - Trump's election, Spring - the issue of borders (both the Irish border and those erected to deter migrations) A link between past political actions from the crucial decade and contemporary events This was a crucial part of the concept of seasonality that Smith set out to explore when she commenced the quartet 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 time In 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. In Spring the Irish border complications to the Brexit issue are linked to the death of Michael Collins in 1922. 
 Think about it .. Ireland in uproar. Brand new union. Brand new border. Brand new ancient Irish unrest. Don’t tell me this isn’t relevant all over again in its brand new same old way. 
 Tragic death A female artist who died tragically (Autumn - Boty of cancer, Winter - Hepworth of a fire in her studio, Spring - 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. Collections A male character with a past link to that artist or who collected that art:Autumn Daniel's close relation to Pauline Boty (albeit he actually owns and just before the book, then sells a Hepworth); Winter - Art’s father (who of course is Daniel)'s love of Barbara Hepworth; Spring - the Collected works of Katherine Mansfield which Paddy leaves Richard in her will. 
 Art influencing characters Actual works of art of the artist figuring in the book and sparking a character’s imagination: In Autumn Elisabeth looks at a book of Boty’s paintings; in Winter Art’s mother views a Hepworth sculpture (I believe “Nesting Stones”) owned by his father; in Spring Richard visits a gallery to view Dean’s work. 
 The influence of the art as a metaphor for the Quartet The character’s reaction to the art serving as a very deliberate metaphor for what Smith is trying to do in her quartet. 
 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 question 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 out 
In 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 In Spring, Richard experiences something of an epiphany viewing Tacita Dean’s cloud pictures: They’d made space to breathe possible, up against something breathtaking. After them, the real clouds above London looked different, like they were something you could read as breathing space. This made something happen too to the buildings below them, the traffic, the ways in which people were passing each other in the street, all of it part of a structure that didn’t know it was a structure, but was one all the same. 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. Time Containers When discussing the quartet, 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 more explicit when discussing Art’s visions of the floating coastline, Lux explains what she calls her own coastline. In Spring 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 Is a single minute really this long. Is the clock that’s broken the one inside him Rhythmic chapters An rhythmical chapter, clearly designed to be read aloud: Autumn - the famous “All across the country …” chapter which Smith seemed to use in most of her readings; Winter the opening “ ….. is dead” chapter; Spring has two We Want ..” chapters (one opening and the other voiced by technology giants) Shakespeare 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: Autumn - The Tempest, Winter Cymbeline, Spring – Pericles. (leaving only "The Winter's Tale.") Dickens A key link to a Dickens work: Autumn – A Tale of Two Cities, Winter – A Christmas Carol; Spring - The Story of Richard Doubledick Dickens Opening Lines Autumn 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" Winter starts "God was dead: to begin with" A Christmas Carol starts: "Marley was dead, to begin with" Spring starts "Now what we don't want is facts" Hard Times starts "NOW, what I want is, Facts" TV relationships Set alongside the literary references, relationships with TV stars from older years: In Autumn Wendy participates in a game show and forms a relationship with her minor celebrity participant (a former child TV star); in Winter Art’s step-father was a sitcom star; In Spring 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. Reappearing, related characters Daniel Gluck, one of the two key characters of Autumn reappears as an earlier lover of a character in subsequent books - Sophie in Winter and Paddy in Spring - 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 Autumn emerging as Richard's daughter. Dysfunctional parent/child relationships In Autumn - Elisabeth and her mother (as well as her missing father, whose identity we only find out in Spring. In Winter not just Art and Sophia, but between Sophia and her own father. In Spring Richard and his missing daughter A Love of and interest in Charlie Chaplin 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 Trees as a recurring image throughout the book A delight in wordplay and punning 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. Character’s names which form part of that punning Art in Winter being matched by Brit in Spring, as well as Florence and her interaction with the immigration Machine (with perhaps Elisabeth’s surname Demand being the Autumn equivalent) Non-native punners 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 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 Lux/Lexiography; In Spring the character is Florence. 
 The importance of postcards A postcard from Daniel to Sophie forms a key link between Autumn and Winter: In Spring 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 ”Our lives .. often have what we might call a postcard nature” Eduardo Boubat An early reference (within the first ten pages) to Eduardo Boubat’s “petite fille aux feuilles mortes jardin du Luxembourg Paris 1946. In Autumn Daniel remembers the postcard of it that he bought in Paris in the 1980s. In Winter, Sophie - the recipient we later realise of the postcard is reminded of the postcard by the disembodied head she starts seeing In Spring, 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 symbolism of fences and commons 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 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. In Spring 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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ilse

    Ali Smith, wordsmith. Ali Smith, poet of hope. Ali Smith, magician. Ali smith, the great connective. 'The air lifts. It’s the scent of commencement, initiation, threshold. The air lets you know quite ceremonially that something has changed. Primroses. Deep in the ivy throw wide the arms of their leaves. Colour slashes across the everyday. The deep blue of grape hyacinths, the bright yellows in wastelands catching the eyes of the people on trains. Birds visit the leafless trees, but not leafless li Ali Smith, wordsmith. Ali Smith, poet of hope. Ali Smith, magician. Ali smith, the great connective. 'The air lifts. It’s the scent of commencement, initiation, threshold. The air lets you know quite ceremonially that something has changed. Primroses. Deep in the ivy throw wide the arms of their leaves. Colour slashes across the everyday. The deep blue of grape hyacinths, the bright yellows in wastelands catching the eyes of the people on trains. Birds visit the leafless trees, but not leafless like in winter; now the branches stiffen, the ends of the twigs glow like slow-burning candles.' Spring might maybe not be my favourite season - autumn is – and yet, like the previous episode Winter made me more appreciative of Christmas, reading Spring 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? 'I loved how she made words that mean dedicated to hope into an actual person, how she gave the words a human shape.' Hope personified has names – Greta Thunberg, Anuna De Wever, Ali Smith.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marchpane

    Ali Smith is our oracle Spring is the third instalment in 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 Ali Smith is our oracle Spring is the third instalment in 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 Spring 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. Spring 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 Summer is published next year will the full scope of this project be revealed. While I’ve loved all three, Spring 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 Spring 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 The Overstory, 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: ‘in hac spe vivo’. 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 Spring like an explosion of green life breaking free of icy winter. With characteristic wordplay, Smith implores us to ‘revolve’: We’ll begin again. We’ll revolve. You mean we’ll evolve, Brit says. No, I mean revolve, the girl says. As in revolution. We’ll roll forward to a new place. You mean revolt, Brit says. You’re talking about revolting. I mean revolve, the girl says. No you don’t, Brit says. I do. We’ll turn it round, the girl says. We’ll do it all differently. This book about ‘humanising the machine’ reminds us that ‘time’s factory’ brings the renewal of spring after darkness. In this hope we live.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    -Ah, you're reading the book with the Hockney tree image again. The branches have 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 Time. 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 April, after all. And you have so many other books on yo -Ah, you're reading the book with the Hockney tree image again. The branches have 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 Time. 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 April, after all. And you have so many other books on your book pile. Eliot, Tokarczuk, Ovid. How's Metamorphoses going by the way ? -Too MeToo for me. Too many rich dicks manipulating the powerless. Think of Philomel. And too many changed women. Think of Daphne. I love trees and leaves, but to be detained inside a tree for ever! Not even a Hockney tree would make that ok. -And what about Eliot and Tokarczuk? -Madame Sosostris meets Blind Teresias meets Cassandra! That describes my book pile right now. It's as if all four books I'm reading are linked. Ah, April is the cruellest month. 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 they haven't met 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 core, the hole in the tree trunk, the bite 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. O, o, o, books morph in my mind like in that old Shakespearian rag, Orpheus with his lute made trees, and the mountain tops that freeze... -Tell you what. You need to do something different, maybe watch a movie. -Reading these books is 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, clods of cloud floating by, full of all the deleted stuff in the world, photos, documents, lost people, forgotten verses, Frisch weht der Wind, Der Heimat zu, Mein Irisch Kind, Wo weilest du? -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 the bones of the dead. -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 Hope! ...my English breath in foreign clouds by Tacita Dean, Artist.

  5. 5 out of 5

    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 Autumn and Winter), 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 Autumn and Winter), 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.

  6. 5 out of 5

    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.

  7. 4 out of 5

    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, w 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. Spring 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. :-)

  8. 4 out of 5

    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 Gumble's Yard and Paul. (Update 11 April - I also recommend these from Neil and Jonathan) . This time the foreground story 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 Gumble's Yard and Paul. (Update 11 April - I also recommend these from Neil and Jonathan) . 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 Public Library and Other Stories, 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. (view spoiler)[This section ends with Richard's attempted suicide by lying in front of a train, from which he is rescued by a young girl. (hide spoiler)] 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.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amalia Gkavea

    ‘’None of it touches me. It’s nothing but water and dust. You’re nothing but bonedust and water. Good. More useful to me in the end. I’m the child who’s been buried in leaves. The leaves rot down: here I am.’’ Four people meet in Scotland under peculiar circumstances. An elderly director who has lost his heart, a troubled young woman, an enigmatic librarian/canteen-keeper and an extraordinary 12-year-old girl searching for her mother. How can one person alter the lives of many? How can they sa ‘’None of it touches me. It’s nothing but water and dust. You’re nothing but bonedust and water. Good. More useful to me in the end. I’m the child who’s been buried in leaves. The leaves rot down: here I am.’’ Four people meet in Scotland under peculiar circumstances. An elderly director who has lost his heart, a troubled young woman, an enigmatic librarian/canteen-keeper and an extraordinary 12-year-old girl searching for her mother. How can one person alter the lives of many? How can they save them? And how do we repay the help we have received? There are no easy answers to these questions. But we can read this book and try to understand. ‘’February. The first bee hits the window glass. The light starts to push back, stark in the cold. But birdsong rounds the day, the first and last thing as the light comes and goes. Even in the dark the air tastes different. In the light from the streetlight the branches of the bare trees are lit with rain. Something has changed. No matter how cold it is that rain is not winter rain any more. The days lengthen. That’s where the word Lent comes from’’ Richard, Florence, Brit and Alda find themselves in the setting of a contemporary Pericles, in a tragedy enriched with the symbolism of the Spring, the rebirth and the rejuvenation of Hope. But is there any Hope, really? In stark and lyrical language, with Scotland at its heart, the novel is a raw commentary on the immigration crisis and Brexit, the daily life that has to go on in an environment of tension and uncertainty. But I’m not here to talk about politics. I never discuss such issues online, among absolute strangers. My opinions are my own and nobody’s business. I am interested in human relationships, this is what I always look for in a novel and Ali Smith excels in that field. With Florence as our mysterious guide and the sad voice of Richard, we become part of a story about loss, reconciliation with the past, and how to cope with a threatening present that is draining, how to look for justice and dignity. ‘’If you rise at dawn in a clear sky, and during the month of March, they say you can catch a bag of air so intoxicated with the essence of spring that when it is distilled and prepared, it will produce an oil of gold, remedy enough to heal all ointments.’’ It’s not just the story that makes Spring special but also the beautiful tidbits that elevate the novel. The beautiful character of Paddy, the enticing, cryptic Alda, the wisdom of Florence. The harrowing descriptions of the Troubles, the beautiful homage to Katherine Mansfield and Rainer Maria Rilke. The poignant observations on the absurd fashion and worry that every word we use may end up being offensive as dictated by the Twitter mob that launches crusades, hidden behind a screen and a (probably) dirty keyboard. The Highland traditions, the scenes from Candlemass, the story of St Brigid, the awakening of March, the dance of the Maidens, the echoes of the Jacobite Rising. I can only imagine the perfection that Summer and Autumn are going to be… ‘’What’s under your road surface now? What’s under your house’s foundations? What’s warping your doors? What’s giving your world the fresh colours? What’s the key to the song of the bird? What’s forming the beak in the egg? What’s sending the thinnest of green shoots through that rock so the rock starts to split?’’ My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.word...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Neale

    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.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    I shall be glad though when Spring comes. Winter is a difficult time. A letter in 1922 from Katherine Mansfield to "L.M." (Lesley Moore, her nickname for Ida Baker, her companion and confidant) Spring is the brilliant 3rd instalment of Ali Smith's seasonal quartet and comes with the usual beautiful wrapper on the cover featuring a picture from David Hockney's The Arrival of Spring. Mess up my climate, I’ll fuck with your lives. Your lives are a nothing to me. I’ll yank daffodils out of the ground I shall be glad though when Spring comes. Winter is a difficult time. A letter in 1922 from Katherine Mansfield to "L.M." (Lesley Moore, her nickname for Ida Baker, her companion and confidant) Spring is the brilliant 3rd instalment of Ali Smith's seasonal quartet and comes with the usual beautiful wrapper on the cover featuring a picture from David Hockney's The Arrival of Spring. Mess up my climate, I’ll fuck with your lives. Your lives are a nothing to me. I’ll yank daffodils out of the ground in December. I’ll block up your front door in April with snow and blow down the tree so it cracks your roof open. I’ll carpet your house with the river. But I’ll be the reason your own sap’s reviving. I’ll mainline the light to your veins. After a trademark Smith prelude about the state of 2019 politics (including the death and rape threats to female MPs), the first strand of the novel opens in October 2018 with a film and TV producer, Richard Lease, sitting in a deserted Scottish rural railway station, having decided to to walk away from his office and travel from London Kings X to Inverness, the furthest a train from here to go: Why is he here? That's the wrong kind of question. It implies there's a story. There is no story. He's had it with story. He's removing himself from story, more specifically from story concerning: Katherine Mansfield, Rainer Maria Rilke, a homeless woman he saw yesterday morning on a pavement outside the British library, and over and above all, the death of his friend. The 'death of his friend' refers to a long-term collaborator, lover and intellectual soulmate, the script writer, Paddy Heal (he later discovers she is née Patricia Hardiman), mother of two twins - 'the twin', and 'the other twin' - and in a recent-past section of the novel (Spring 2018) dying of cancer. The novel also takes us to the 1970s when they first met, when she instantly gives him the name Doubledick which he optimistically hopes is sexual innuendo but actually a reference to the Dickens's The Story of Richard Doubledick. We also learn that Lease's wife disappeared from his life in February 1987, taking his 2 year old daughter with her and throughout the novel Richard maintains a dialogue with his 'imaginary daughter', the person he thinks she may have grew up to be, continuing a suggestion made by Paddy that he visits places, e.g. galleries, to which he might have taken his daughter. In one such gallery he encounters the work of Tacita Dean, including her stunning The Montafon Letter ( https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/artic...) and she is the novel's foundation female artist, albeit here her work rather than her life is key. A view of the Highland mountains that recalled Dean’s art is what prompted Richard to get off the train at that particular station, rather than travel all the way to Inverness. The dying Paddy and Richard discuss a project on which he has been asked to work with a rather less skilled writer, Martin T(w)erp, based on a novel April by Bella Powell: literary, he says. Second novel by Nella, something, Bella. A lot of language. Not much happens. This (fictitious) novel is based on the real-life coincidence of Katherine Mansfield and Rainer Maria Rilke both being in possibly the same hotel in Switzerland in 1922, unknown to each other. 1922 is of course, as Paddy proclaims, famous as the: Year when anything in literature fractured. Fell to pieces. On Margate Sands. the last a reference to TS Eliot's The Wasteland. But Smith chooses to focus on the 'outliers' of the modernist revolution, Mansfield and Rilke: The stories Mansfield wrote in Switzerland were her best. And him, about to finish the Elegies, write the Orpheus poems ... the seminal remakers of forms they were using. There, in the same room, at the same time. And what they write, it changes everything. They break the mould. They're the modern. The likes of Zola and Dickens pass the baton to Mansfield and Rilke, the two great homeless writers, the great outliers. Mansfield's letters play an important role. The one that opens my review is not quoted in the novel, but a line from another forms one of the novel's epigraph, a letter found unsent in her blotter on her death in January 1923 and assumed to be written days before: I am looking for signs of spring already. Her words are consciously echoed by the dying Paddy to RichardThe simple flowers of our spring are what I want to see again, she says. Both fail to live long enough to fulfil their goal, Paddy dying in August 2019. And Richard himself has an erotic dream inspired, bizarrely, by another letter from Mansfield, this one to William Gerhardi, an aspiring author. 1922 is also when Michael Collins was killed, and Paddy/Smith point out the obvious parallels of the political developments of the time to Spring 2019, with the Brexit deal mired in the Irish border backstop: Ireland in uproar. Brand new union. Brand new border. Brand new ancient Irish civil unrest. Don't tell me this isn't relevant. One of Paddy and Richard's most successful collaborations was on a film called Andy Hoffnung, the title coming from a comic misunderstanding when a stranger sitting next to Paddy at a Beethoven concern seemed to utter those words, which she assumed was his name, but which was actually a reference to the piece An Die Hoffnung. Those words of course have echoes of Pericles motto in the Shakespeare play - a key foundation text for the novel, and also quoted in the epigraph: He seems to be a stranger; but his present is A withered branch that’s only green at top, The motto: In hac spe vivo. Paddy never does find the stranger's name - but retains a lifelong love of Charlie Chaplin inspired by his enthusiastic advocacy when they go for a drink afterwards. But the reader recognises him ... as Daniel Gluck from Autumn and Winter. The above narrative gradually explains Richard's opening remarks, his despair a combination of an absent daughter, a dead soul-mate and lover, and indeed T(w)erp’s proposed treatment of April that turns Mansfield and Rilke's (lack of an) encounter and its artistic significance into a tawdry TV bonkbuster. The second strand of the novel starts around the same time with Brittany (abbreviated to Brit) Hall, an employee of the ubiquitous SA4A, working as an detainee custody officer in a (needlessly) high-security Immigration Removal Centre: I’m a DCO at one of the IRCs employed by the private security firm SA4A who on behalf of the HO run the Spring, the Field, the Worth, the Valley, the Oak, the Berry, the Garland, the Grove, the Meander, the Wood and one or two others too, she said. We also meet Brit's rather dotty mother, although wedded not to junk TV (as in the equivalent characters in Autumn and Winter, although we do later get some The Apprentice bashing) but now, in a reflection of the times, to the 24-hour news channel: I wonder what will happen now, her constant refrain as she watches the unfolding developments, entranced. The Centre is visited by a mysterious 12 year-old girl Florence, of non British descent indeed possibly the daughter of an immigrant held there. She is verbally eloquent, intellectually precocious and mysteriously able to bend others, Derren Brown style, to her will - a sort of cross between Elisabeth from Autumn and Lux from Winter. An odd rumour has it that she was able to walk into a seedy and dangerous brothel and persuade the male customers of the error of their ways, giving us another clue that the foundational Shakespeare play here is Pericles, this episode echoing Marina's time in the brothel in Mytilene. Another clue is the motto on her school blazer - Vivunt Spe. More relevantly for the plot, she has a similarly transformative effect when she somehow makes it to the office of the director of the Wood, embarrassing him into at least having the facility thoroughly cleaned, after asking him a series of pointed questions: I am a twelve year old girl asking you questions ... I am way old enough to read and comprehend books and things published on the net, and I’ve been reading up a lot about these things partly because they touch my life personally but also because I am curious about them anyway, and some of the things I’ve read made me want to ask some questions to the people responsible, and you are one of those people. On a personal note , I am going to hope or pretend that passage may have been inspired by an encounter, when my 9 year-old daughter asked Ali Smith how Autumn would have differed had the UK voted Remain. Magically Florences persuades Brit, against her will and political instinct, to team up with her - Florence and the Machine - and travel with her to Scotland, as she is, like Richard, mysterious drawn to Kingussie station, in her case prompted by a postcard. Postcards also play a rather key role in the plot - as indeed they did in the writing careers of Mansfield and Rilke. The postcards this time don't include a print of Boubat's Girl in Leaf Dress (the key link between Autumn and Winter) but that does get an implicit mention in a comment on refugees: Children with clothes as ragged as suits of old leaves. Kingussie is known for the MacKenzie Fountain (https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/543...). Outside there is a humourous encounter reminiscent of the Post Office photo saga, but this time with a coffee van run by the town librarian Alda Lyons (which turns out to be a pseudonym based on Auld Alliance and inspired by the Andy Hoffnung film). The coffee and lemonade van appears to have neither beverage nor indeed anything else: an echo of the over-catchy Duck Song except here it's the lemonade stall owner who is infuriating (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwO21...). And the four embark on a road trip to Inverness and Culloden together, which enables Smith/Lyons to educate us about the enclosure of the common lands and the almost ethnic cleansing of the Highland Clearances in the aftermath of Culloden. It wouldn't be a Smith novel without interspersed present day politics although Trump, and his fellows, are mentioned but largely off-screen, quite deliberately so as Richard refuses to speak of them: never do anything a demagogue narcissist might long for us to do. And indeed there is an underlying sense of optimism - this too shall pass, Spring arriving after Winter, that these disruptive figures will ultimately go the way of all flesh: It’ll melt away, like snow in May. The end of the novel jumps back and forth between October 2018 and spring 2019, although without attempting to forecast how Brexit might have gone. The Pericles link might hint that Florence may prove to be Richard's long lost daughter, but the ages doesn't match up - his daughter would be in her mid 30s. Another clue to her identity - her first name is Elisabeth and she, using her mother's maiden name, has an unusual surname ... she may well have been hiding in plain sight (to the reader at least), but in another season, all along. Pleasingly a full house on my Ali Smith bingo card: albeit with a stretch for the compulsory Wimbledon link. I could claim the Smith-Sumi encounter above, or perhaps that another of Mansfield's letter inspired the title of this poem: http://poems.poetrysociety.org.uk/poe... nearly made blueprints, nearly built a whole world, all churches and cafes like in Wimbledon Village, like we always dreamed. we always dreamed, but i couldn’t do it alone. But some questions where help would be appreciated - the significance of: - Paddy's maiden name, Patricia Hardiman; - the girl who is looking at the Montafon letter artwork in the gallery (was this a scene from a previous novel?); - the postcard that led Florence to Scotland; - the ingredients for "my mother’s soup in Tesco"; - the Rise my Daughter Above notebook Florence and the dedication from her mother. And 5 stars for another wonderful novel - I can't wait for Summer 2020.

  12. 4 out of 5

    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.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    Autumn, then there’ll be winter. Then there’ll be spring, and so on. As Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet progresses, I find it increasingly hard to write anything that concentrates on only the book I have just read. In preparation for reading Spring, I re-read both Autumn and Winter and there are so many things going on that link the books in terms of both characters and themes that it now feels very much that you have to review the current status of the quartet as a whole, not just this third instal Autumn, then there’ll be winter. Then there’ll be spring, and so on. As Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet progresses, I find it increasingly hard to write anything that concentrates on only the book I have just read. In preparation for reading Spring, I re-read both Autumn and Winter and there are so many things going on that link the books in terms of both characters and themes that it now feels very much that you have to review the current status of the quartet as a whole, not just this third instalment. Superficially, Spring starts as a book about Richard Lease whose friend Paddy (Patricia) has recently died (Paddy is wonderful and I would have loved to have more of her in this book!). In the aftermath of her death, Richard takes the train to Scotland to escape, catching a train to Inverness (the furthest you can get from London without changing) but getting off on a whim at Kingussie. Inverness is not just as far from London as you can get on a train, it is also Ali Smith’s home town. In a separate thread of the story, Brit (Brittany) works for SA4A (a company in the background through all the books so far) as a DCO in an IRC (Detainee Custody Officer, Immigration Removal Centre). Brit ends up accompanying a strange young (Jedi-like - “these are not the droids you are seeking”) girl on a trip to, you’ve guessed it, Kingussie, and the stories converge. That’s more than enough about plot. The best idea is to read the book to learn about what happens. But while you are reading it, you will notice that Ali Smith is angry. She is angry about the way we (society) treat people who are not “us”. She writes a lot about the injustices of the immigration system and the inhumane treatment refugees receive. A key idea across the three books so far has been the way that past events have shaped and influenced our present. Smith writes the books to be as immediate as possible, but she grounds each of them in a bedrock of historical fact. Her writing style here where she jumps from one time to another reinforces this view of time being cyclical rather than linear (hence the seasons as an overarching theme). We don’t move on from our past as time progresses. In Autumn, the then recent Brexit vote was linked very directly to the Profumo scandal. In Winter, we had activism on behalf of both climate change and refugees which was linked to the Greenham Common protests. And in Spring, Smith concentrates on refugees and borders and refers us back to the 1920s and, in particular, the death in 1922 of Michael Collins. Think about it, Paddy says. Ireland in uproar. Brand new union. Brand new border. Brand new ancient Irish civil unrest. Don’t tell me this isn’t relevant all over again in its brand new same old way. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. One of the things Smith seems to be asking us in Spring is why we can’t think (and, therefore, act) in different ways? Instead of Doesn’t matter what I voted or you voted or anyone voted. Because what’s the point, if nobody in the end is going to listen to or care about what other people think unless they think and believe the same thing as them. why not What if, the girl says. Instead of saying, this border divides these places. We said, this border unites these places. This border holds together these two really interesting different places. What if we declared border crossings places where, listen, when you crossed them, you yourself became doubly possible.? My Goodreads friends Paul and Gumble’s Yard have already done excellent jobs of writing reviews of this book. Gumble’s Yard points out many of the recurring themes across all the volumes. I started to write something about that, but I can’t better what he has done: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... And Paul gives a detailed summary of the book and the major themes: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... I don’t think either of them will mind me taking the same approach as another GR friend (Hugh) and pointing you to their reviews rather than repeating. But I do believe Smith’s quartet is building into something that is required reading and I would urge you to read all three novels (and then perhaps, also read Isabel Waidner’s We Are Made Of Diamond Stuff). They are demonstrations of the fact that fiction can be important in real life. The girl is like someone or something out of a legend or a story, the kind of story that on the one hand isn’t really about real life but on the other is the only way you ever really understand anything about real life.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ceecee

    Spring is my favourite season because it is renewal and full of promise. It might arrive with a bang or a whimper or a gentle warm embrace. This third of the seasons quartet examines the state of Britain in 2018 and it’s not a pretty picture. However, Ali Smith tries to give it a human face either via the past or the present and reminds us that after the bleak darkness of winter there is the hope of spring. There are two narratives which initially don’t seem to coincide. There’s Richard, an elde Spring is my favourite season because it is renewal and full of promise. It might arrive with a bang or a whimper or a gentle warm embrace. This third of the seasons quartet examines the state of Britain in 2018 and it’s not a pretty picture. However, Ali Smith tries to give it a human face either via the past or the present and reminds us that after the bleak darkness of winter there is the hope of spring. There are two narratives which initially don’t seem to coincide. There’s Richard, an elderly television director who is grieving the loss of his best friend Patricia, known as Paddy. It’s Autumn, he’s aimless, feels he has lost his anchor and boards a train to Scotland, destination anywhere. Then there’s Brittany Hall who works for SA4A at a Detention Centre for migrants. On her way to work she meets young Florence who entices her to make a spontaneous journey north. These characters eventually meet at Kingussie and make important decisions. Along the way the story is interjected with legends and the works of artists and writers such as Katherine Mansfield and poet Rainer Rilke, the latter I especially like. Through the book Ali Smith covers topics like the treatment of detainees and how the system seems stacked against them, racism, borders, climate change, social media and Brexit. . The author does not tell us what the solutions are and at times she does not hold back and just lets rip. The characters are interesting but my standout is Florence. Some of her conversations with people she meets are bizarre but they are clever and sometimes funny. On the journey north, she and Brit have fascinating conversations while others in the carriage are glued to their screens. Point taken. To me Florence is an allegory for spring as at times she’s invisible to people but she’s there just as the season is beneath the surface. It also struck me as remarkable and often a truism that a twelve year old can look at something, see right into the heart of it and turn perceived wisdom on its head. I rest my case with Greta Thunberg! However, I did not enjoy this season as much as Autumn which remains my favourite. At times this one rambles and lacks cohesion in my opinion and I get lost in the thread and fail to see where it’s going. Then it re-finds me and gets going again. It is though extremely well written and very creative. Overall, this is a powerful meltdown about the division and state of politics and other issues in 2018 Britain. It ends with the promise of hope and a reawakening as with the season of spring. Good job she didn’t write about 2020 as spring brought Covid19! 3-4 stars rounded up because it’s very well written. With thanks to NetGalley and Penguin General UK for a copy of the book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Trudie

    3.5 This is one of these reviews that is tough to write because at least among my associates here on Goodreads this book is universally adored. I fully expected to enjoy it as well. However, I don't know if it was my current reading mood or the feeling that the much vaunted timeliness of this novel combined in an unfortunate way with happenings in the real world ( can I blame Boris here ? ) but whatever the reasonings I found this a surprising chore to get through. And yet I know what Smith is a 3.5 This is one of these reviews that is tough to write because at least among my associates here on Goodreads this book is universally adored. I fully expected to enjoy it as well. However, I don't know if it was my current reading mood or the feeling that the much vaunted timeliness of this novel combined in an unfortunate way with happenings in the real world ( can I blame Boris here ? ) but whatever the reasonings I found this a surprising chore to get through. And yet I know what Smith is attempting is owed some reverential admiration. To capture in a novel published in March the complicated nuances of life in Britain in late 2018 is so audacious, it is literature as a breathing reactive entity, almost as immediate as journalism. Does it work as a novel I enjoyed reading ? for me the answer is no, but I surely respect the undertaking. Spring struck me as far more polemical, and obtuse than either Autumn or Winter and in ways that I was just not in the mood to embrace. I am usually willing to do the work required to follow Smith on her crazy quilting journey of art and literature. Barrelling hither and yon from Twitter rants to catching clouds, the life of Mansfield, the rose poetry of Rilke. I am happy to do that if there is some aspect of character or story that can act like an anchor. While I thought Paddy / Richard / and KM Mansfield were going to provide those anchors, I am afraid I lost all patience and goodwill with the introduction of Florence. A schoolgirl that can charm her way into brothels ( yes, yes Pericles I know ) but these sections lost me and once you are lost in an Ali Smith novel you are doomed. I grew rapidly wary of the entire undertaking. Could better editing have helped here ? maybe. Will Spring work for me when approached at a little remove from the era in question. I hope so, because I feel uncomfortable about my lacklustre feelings towards this obviously deserving novel.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    DNF at 36% Honestly? Despite so many friends 5-starring this and the earlier books in the quartet, it's just confirmation that Smith and I are not a match. I love her politics, and her set piece monologues on the 'politics of stupidity' and big data are spot on, if not as zeitgeisty now as when this book first came out. I also loved Paddy for the brief pages when she's there. But the rest... not really. It's like topics are just thrown in randomly: Katherine Mansfield, Rilke, clouds, postcards, b DNF at 36% Honestly? Despite so many friends 5-starring this and the earlier books in the quartet, it's just confirmation that Smith and I are not a match. I love her politics, and her set piece monologues on the 'politics of stupidity' and big data are spot on, if not as zeitgeisty now as when this book first came out. I also loved Paddy for the brief pages when she's there. But the rest... not really. It's like topics are just thrown in randomly: Katherine Mansfield, Rilke, clouds, postcards, boring Richard, the lost daughter, migrant centres, time standing still on a train platform, puerile TV dramas (actually, that was pretty amusing!), a girl called Brit (get it?) - being kind, we might call this a 'collage'; more unkindly, a chaotic jumble. Smith's trademark wordplay is a bit of a one-trick pony and for every hit, there are a handful of misses. I came to this having recently finished Sebald's The Rings of Saturn which structures its narrative in similar ways - but where Spring doesn't seem to understand how intertextuality works hermeneutically, merely throwing off references that have no significant meaning within the text, Sebald (ok, yes, he was a poetry professor, this was his profession) uses intertexts to add layers of meaning through the contact points of other texts with his. A prime example is when he writes of Conrad and his experiences during the exploitation of the Congo: by trusting the reader to make the connections between Conrad, Congo and the idea of the physical journey that is also a psychic one, Sebald's text conjures up, without ever mentioning it, Kurtz's 'the horror! the horror!' which underpins, and melds with, what Saturn is itself saying. Contrast that with Spring's use of Shakespeare's Pericles: the only significance is the lost daughter - which might just as easily have been evoked through The Mayor of Casterbridge, say, or Dombey and Son - Shakespeare's play isn't doing anything active in Spring, it doesn't carry in any other meaning, and so ends up feeling a bit self-congratulatory, even pompous. I felt the same way about the use of Katherine Mansfield - ok, nice to use a female writer who isn't Woolf - but it doesn't matter to the meaning of the book, as far as I could see, that Mansfield has a presence within the text. It's that messy randomness again. I dnf Autumn at 5%, gave Girl Meets Boy 2.5 stars, and now am abandoning this at 36% - me and Ali Smith? Three strikes... and I'm out!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    4.5, rounded down. As with the first two volumes in Smith's planned tetralogy, this merited a 4.5 for me, and like the other two volumes, I had to consult the reviews of the 'Usual Suspects' (Paul, Neil, Meike, GY, Jonathan, Hugh) to heighten my understanding of what was going on and the myriad references/interconnections - and yet remain still a bit confused and nonplussed, but definitely put that down to my own deficiencies, rather than Ms. Smith's fault. Raced through this virtually in a few h 4.5, rounded down. As with the first two volumes in Smith's planned tetralogy, this merited a 4.5 for me, and like the other two volumes, I had to consult the reviews of the 'Usual Suspects' (Paul, Neil, Meike, GY, Jonathan, Hugh) to heighten my understanding of what was going on and the myriad references/interconnections - and yet remain still a bit confused and nonplussed, but definitely put that down to my own deficiencies, rather than Ms. Smith's fault. Raced through this virtually in a few hours, which made my little head spin a few times... I really loved the first section with Richard and Paddy, but then the following two, focusing on Brit and Florence, I was less enchanted by... hopefully by the time Summer arrives, I can make a bit more sense of things, as I intend to do a marathon read of all four sections at such time.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    For a reason I can’t disclose, I had to read Spring during winter. But, as I discovered, that wasn’t entirely inappropriate. Spring is suffused with winter, and much of it is set in autumn. Ali Smith’s Spring follows the path of her seasonal predecessors with the elements it contains: timeliness, of course; references to a Shakespeare play and a Dickens story; a real-life female artist—in this case, Tacita Dean; a precocious girl and/or a mysterious young woman. (With the latter quality, which i For a reason I can’t disclose, I had to read Spring during winter. But, as I discovered, that wasn’t entirely inappropriate. Spring is suffused with winter, and much of it is set in autumn. Ali Smith’s Spring follows the path of her seasonal predecessors with the elements it contains: timeliness, of course; references to a Shakespeare play and a Dickens story; a real-life female artist—in this case, Tacita Dean; a precocious girl and/or a mysterious young woman. (With the latter quality, which includes a magical, mystical element here, I’m reminded of Amber in The Accidental.) Due to my experience of Winter, I looked for Spring to disclose its connection to a previous volume, and I found it near the end. As I said in my review of Winter, I envision rereading the seasonal quartet once it’s completed. Spring’s big theme is hope. Despite April’s cruelty, it’s still April.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Spring is still simmering in my brain and I'm not totally sure what I read. Smith tells the story of a TV director mourning the loss of his friend and fellow artist; a young woman with a job at a refugee center; a 12 year old who -- well I'm not sure about Florence, but she is still somehow at the center of this novel. Smith connects them while delivering a scathing critique on the treatment of refugees in a divided Britain. I love that in her seasonal novels, Smith always compels me to want to Spring is still simmering in my brain and I'm not totally sure what I read. Smith tells the story of a TV director mourning the loss of his friend and fellow artist; a young woman with a job at a refugee center; a 12 year old who -- well I'm not sure about Florence, but she is still somehow at the center of this novel. Smith connects them while delivering a scathing critique on the treatment of refugees in a divided Britain. I love that in her seasonal novels, Smith always compels me to want to learn more about the artists she weaves into her narrative - this time, Katharine Mansfield, whose short stories I just ordered. I do think I need to re-read "Spring" and after "Summer," I may re-read them all.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eric Anderson

    The more I read of Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet, the more poignant and meaningful this magnificent artistic project feels. Although each novel has a self-contained story concerning a group of characters, an overarching fictional family is being built with small references connecting characters between the novels. This adds a little frisson of pleasure for attentive readers who spot the connections (one such link is explicitly made to “Autumn” at the end of this novel.) But, most of all, a portra The more I read of Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet, the more poignant and meaningful this magnificent artistic project feels. Although each novel has a self-contained story concerning a group of characters, an overarching fictional family is being built with small references connecting characters between the novels. This adds a little frisson of pleasure for attentive readers who spot the connections (one such link is explicitly made to “Autumn” at the end of this novel.) But, most of all, a portrait of our time period is being exquisitely encapsulated in Smith’s yearly novel account of recent events, society’s wildly divergent opinions and current political debates. The author also prompts us to ask important questions about the way we live now – one tenacious character in this novel continues to ask questions that need to be asked even when no answers are forthcoming. Moreover, Smith emphasises the importance of dialogue to better understand each other’s positions. “Spring” primarily focuses on the story of Richard Lease, a down on his luck filmmaker mourning the loss of his good friend and former colleague/lover Patricia (Paddy). He contemplates a film project that playfully imagines a fictional relationship between the writers Katherine Mansfield and Rainer Maria Rilke. When his life comes to a crisis point he encounters a group of people he embarks on a journey with that includes Brittany (Brit), a correction officer at an immigration centre/prison; Florence, a mysterious girl who can freely enter forbidden spaces; and Alda Lyons, a librarian involved in a secret operation to assist detained immigrants. They engage in a number of conversations and relate stories to each other. Even when these characters try to avoid revealing themselves or step away from the stories of their lives they find themselves in a new story: “He was a man on a railway platform. There was no story. Except, there is. There always fucking is.” Smith reminds us that we’re always part of a larger narrative no matter how isolated we feel. Read my full review of Spring by Ali Smith on LonesomeReader

  21. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    The penultimate novel in the quadruplet brings an ageing TV director, a waspish guard in an immigrant detention centre, and another of Smith’s preternaturally precocious word-pixie teenagers (a recurring character type in her novels) together in another plate-spinning mélange of literary references (Mansfield and Rilke), hot topics (immigrants and social media), and a smattering of elegant seasonal rumination. The results are as successful and engaging as in the other two novels, although long-t The penultimate novel in the quadruplet brings an ageing TV director, a waspish guard in an immigrant detention centre, and another of Smith’s preternaturally precocious word-pixie teenagers (a recurring character type in her novels) together in another plate-spinning mélange of literary references (Mansfield and Rilke), hot topics (immigrants and social media), and a smattering of elegant seasonal rumination. The results are as successful and engaging as in the other two novels, although long-time readers of Smith might find fatigue setting in as the more whimsical mode takes over (in the form of long train ride with the frankly irritating Florence), and the more startling elements (the section set in the detention centre is compelling and appalling) are parked in favour of descriptions of fictitious 1970s BBC productions. The commingling of elements is perhaps not as successful in this seasonal foray (which is another way of saying I found of the characters less interesting). But the novel is still a solid excursion into Smith’s beguiling and hyper-attentive universe.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    I still think I preferred Autumn, but Ali Smith's latest instalment of her seasonal quartet Spring brought me back to life in a way that Winter didn't. I didn't quite warm to the characters in quite the same way, but I was forever intrigued by what I felt like was an almost magical realism quality to certain sections of the story. As we later discover, there is a reason for this effect, but it didn't take away from that quality - in fact, it made it feel even more powerful. I know I'm being vagu I still think I preferred Autumn, but Ali Smith's latest instalment of her seasonal quartet Spring brought me back to life in a way that Winter didn't. I didn't quite warm to the characters in quite the same way, but I was forever intrigued by what I felt like was an almost magical realism quality to certain sections of the story. As we later discover, there is a reason for this effect, but it didn't take away from that quality - in fact, it made it feel even more powerful. I know I'm being vague, but I think it's hard to not be with Ali Smith's work, especially with a novel that is so decidedly part of a larger whole. I can't wait to see what Summer brings.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    Sometimes there is an author who just speaks to you in a way that others don’t or can’t, and Ali Smith is that author for me. What to say about Spring, that is meaningful and captures the significance of this novel to us all, in our times? If it’s even possible, Spring exceeded my super high expectations, and is probably the best of the seasonal quartet so far (and they’re basically all perfect). In it, Smith is as always, an exceptional wordsmith. She confronts us unapologetically with some of t Sometimes there is an author who just speaks to you in a way that others don’t or can’t, and Ali Smith is that author for me. What to say about Spring, that is meaningful and captures the significance of this novel to us all, in our times? If it’s even possible, Spring exceeded my super high expectations, and is probably the best of the seasonal quartet so far (and they’re basically all perfect). In it, Smith is as always, an exceptional wordsmith. She confronts us unapologetically with some of the most real darkness of our times. But within this perfectly crafted reflection of the worst parts of ourselves, there are glimmers of hope. And that is the Ali Smith Magic. “The girl is like someone or something out of a legend or story, the kind of story that on the one hand isn’t really about real life, but on the other is the only way you every understand anything about real life.”

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Here’s the skinny: I didn’t like Spring as much as its two predecessors. Here’s what I liked about Spring: As with Autumn and Winter, Smith infuses Spring’s principal characters with sweetness and humanity, unabashedly sentimental without being maudlin. Examples? Richard’s imaginary daughter is heartbreaking, and the ambiguity of Smith’s portrayal of Dermot and Patrick — Paddy’s twins — is perfect. Smith excels at cross-generational relationships as well as friendships between older and younger Here’s the skinny: I didn’t like Spring as much as its two predecessors. Here’s what I liked about Spring: As with Autumn and Winter, Smith infuses Spring’s principal characters with sweetness and humanity, unabashedly sentimental without being maudlin. Examples? Richard’s imaginary daughter is heartbreaking, and the ambiguity of Smith’s portrayal of Dermot and Patrick — Paddy’s twins — is perfect. Smith excels at cross-generational relationships as well as friendships between older and younger men and women, witness Brit and Florence, witness Paddy and Richard. She does guys really well. Smith is masterful at illuminating the momentous in everyday moments. In Spring she turns this mastery to the bureaucracy, politics, and horrors of immigration, ranging from the likely unforgettable Aldos and Aldas, to her description of Brittany as a ”DCO at a UK IRC”, to ”We move from one invisibility to another. I had no rights. I still have no rights. I carried fear on my shoulders all the way across the world to this country you call yours. I still carry the fear on my shoulders. Now I see it like this. Fear is one of my belongings. Fear will always be a part of any belonging, anywhere, that I ever do, for the rest of my life. I fought hard, to get here to your country. And the first thing you did when I arrived was hand me a letter saying, ‘Welcome to a country in which you are not welcome. You are now a designated unwelcome person with whom we will do as we please.’” And here’s what I didn’t like aboutSpring: Florence’s super-powers didn’t sit well with me. What I saw as Smith’s usually artful digressions in Autumn and Winter — often interesting, occasionally confusing — felt more out of whack in Spring, more confusing and less interesting. We had almost two inches of rain in my home town this week, alternating with seemingly unending mizzle. I’m eagerly waiting for Summer, because Spring, despite some wonders, didn't deliver quite as much as I had hoped. 4 stars

  25. 5 out of 5

    Caro the Helmet Lady

    As always with Ali Smith, you get so much to deal with, to think about and to empathize. You don't necessarily want to, but you just have to. Because once you start reading - you can't stop. As always - a puzzle, an impressionist painting. This one it was probably colder, rougher than the ones before. Very straightforward and clever and on point on politics and all common sense thoughts about it. I wonder what she's going to write about this year, if she will? Can't wait for the last part. As always with Ali Smith, you get so much to deal with, to think about and to empathize. You don't necessarily want to, but you just have to. Because once you start reading - you can't stop. As always - a puzzle, an impressionist painting. This one it was probably colder, rougher than the ones before. Very straightforward and clever and on point on politics and all common sense thoughts about it. I wonder what she's going to write about this year, if she will? Can't wait for the last part.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Paltia

    Pardon me while I gush over Ali Smith’s Spring. Where to begin when an entire book proves so quotable? Florence, the girl with the power of making herself invisible and hypnotising those who threaten, is a great start. As Smith describes her she is the girl who makes people behave like they should or like they live in a different world. Florence is the fixed point that remains so all the others can find their way. She’s a point of reference - the return of Spring. A keeper of wisdom gained from Pardon me while I gush over Ali Smith’s Spring. Where to begin when an entire book proves so quotable? Florence, the girl with the power of making herself invisible and hypnotising those who threaten, is a great start. As Smith describes her she is the girl who makes people behave like they should or like they live in a different world. Florence is the fixed point that remains so all the others can find their way. She’s a point of reference - the return of Spring. A keeper of wisdom gained from remaining in touch with all that is really going on around her. She’s the bringer of hope in troubled times. Through her and Alda, the reckless van driver, Richard/Doubledick and Brit achieve personal revivals. They feel the hope - vivunt spe- of the collective. Spring, an opening of hearts to new possibilities and the healing of spirit towards reconciliation. It’s a beautiful time to achieve an understanding of the world as it could be. Emerging from the longest and coldest nights of death and loss here comes Richard’s spring. A time for him to finally let himself be open to the challenges of the times we live in. Ali Smith is the ultimate wordsmith. Like an orator she sends out her call to bring groups together and work as a single force for change. You can rely on her to use her words to keep you grounded as the winds of change blow all around us and this story. She’s given us words to humanise the machine. We are, as humans, one another. We are the people. We of the same source need to stop drawing lines and building fences between colour, species, religion, and abilities. The man made rules and barriers need to be removed like a blindfold from the eyes or a vicelike grip around our hearts. We affect the all because we are the all. Hell, she says it so much better. Please read Spring and let Ms. Smith share with you the highest of magic and the simplest of truths. She’ll guide you, like Richard’s imaginary child/Paddy as a child, to wake the fuck up.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)

    I thought that Winter would end up being my favorite of this quartet, but now I’m not sure. What I feel confident saying is that so far, Spring is the most cohesive standalone novel of the three. It’ll be so strange for this series to end!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Spring follows Autumn and Winter in Smith’s ambitious seasonal quartet. It is chocked full with ideas on politics—from the British Empire to Brexit; the power of art and literature upon the human condition; and the desire of humankind to be valued as individuals. Smith’s writing is ‘Scottish’ postmodernism where realistic fiction is intermingled with surreal elements. Add in a heavy dose of symbolic references and puns for the word sleuths to ponder and you have a brilliant novel for the cerebra Spring follows Autumn and Winter in Smith’s ambitious seasonal quartet. It is chocked full with ideas on politics—from the British Empire to Brexit; the power of art and literature upon the human condition; and the desire of humankind to be valued as individuals. Smith’s writing is ‘Scottish’ postmodernism where realistic fiction is intermingled with surreal elements. Add in a heavy dose of symbolic references and puns for the word sleuths to ponder and you have a brilliant novel for the cerebral reader. [See the detailed reviews of Paul Fulcher or Gumble’s Yard—both are excellent in discussing the nuances of Smith’s writing.] Smith explores how a cataclysmic event can significantly impact current events—whether it is the death of Michael Collins in the 1920s or the Brexit vote today. She introduces characters that reflect the country’s fear of immigrants and the detention centers that have mushroomed in response. There is much to be mined in Smith’s writing, but I will leave it for the reader to discover them. Just know, that Spring brings renewal!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gemma

    For me, not the exhilarating read that was Autumn. This felt more uneven, more hit and miss. Still though very pertinent to these troubled and divided times we live in.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Pool

    Suffice to say I think Spring is a wonderful book, by a writer at the peak of her powers, writing in a way (contemporaneous with real life events) that is innovative , and yet, by her admission a return to the days of her beloved Dickens writing books on the hoof, in serialised form. Instead, here are my notes following a great evening spent at Foyles Bookshop, London, on April 9, 2019 with Ali Smith in conversation with Claire Armistead (Associate editor, Guardian) when I got my first pay packet Suffice to say I think Spring is a wonderful book, by a writer at the peak of her powers, writing in a way (contemporaneous with real life events) that is innovative , and yet, by her admission a return to the days of her beloved Dickens writing books on the hoof, in serialised form. Instead, here are my notes following a great evening spent at Foyles Bookshop, London, on April 9, 2019 with Ali Smith in conversation with Claire Armistead (Associate editor, Guardian) when I got my first pay packet I went direct to Foyles on Charing Cross Road (279) The four main themes/strands in Spring • Atavism. (In a serious moment in the q & a session, Ali spoke about a chilling but memorable talk she had heard given by author/barrister Philippe Sands Philippe Sands Q.C.comparing the shadows of, and the isolationism, of the 1930’s. • The Climate/Nature • Richard “An old leftie” • Paddy- Ali Smith favourite. Through Paddy, the real and the story come together On Brexit • When Autumn was released in September 2016, the effects of the vote outcome (and particularly the changes in mood in the build up to the vote were very apparent. Ali Smith had wanted (since discussions about publishing deadlines and How To Be Both) to write a book immediately contemporaneous with live events. It was a question of getting scripts and proofs and distribution in place. Ali Smith had wanted to write about the here and now for a number of years. (Smith in her 2017 Goldsmiths lecture referenced a book that did just this some years before: “Muriel Spark’s 1974 novel The Abbess of Crewe, a satire on the Watergate Scandal of the 1970s, was written, published and in the shops while Watergate was still on the front pages.” The events developing in 2016 triggered that moment; a time when the giant canvassing boards throughout Kent were changing message- posters disappeared, (on her way to Whitstable). Autumn was about change. Everything that divides was in place before the vote (and remember Scotland had already had a referendum in 2014). Trump was increasingly outspoken in America with talk of walls. The first symbolism in Autumn was the arrival of a fence. So, this is not a Brexit novel, but the working in of immediately contemporary events did necessitate (and continues to do so) Brexit referencing. • Brexit itself is a distraction from THE two main issues that matter: > 132 million people are effectively homeless; migrants that need help and accommodation > Climate Change… and thank heavens for the schoolchildren truanting from school to protest about their futures and environmental disaster. Katherine Mansfield • Ali’s face truly lit up when asked to recommend her favourite Mansfield story She had been asked to write an introduction to The Collected Stories of Katherine Mansfield (in 2009). She thought this was a straightforward task based on a short story she had read many years ago. How wrong she was; and this opened up a visit to the most amazing short stories. At first she just couldn’t ‘get’ the meanings until she found herself jet-lagged, and it all came together. Mansfield (the New Zealander), the writer with the ‘foreigner’s eye’ • (in her 2017 Goldsmiths lecture Smith said: “Katherine Mansfield so short-lived herself, a writer who revolutionised the short form”) • Ali’s chosen favourite in response to the question: “ The Garden Party" ) • The Rilke/ Mansfield coincidence of their co-location in Switzerland. “They will have shared the same side of beef!” Shakespeare and Dickens • Ali loves Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare > Dickens quotes start every book in the quartet (in Spring “ Now what we don’t want is facts”) with a pointer to the slave labour and industry of the c.21st > Florence (12 year old) is stolen from Shakespeare’s Pericles . She is an impossible character, fantastical in the same way that Marina in Pericles was able to challenge perceptions. From tragedy to fulfilment. Florence is GOOD Detention Centres • Ali has visited a detention centre once, as part of the Refugee Tales http://refugeetales.org/ initiative with a number of writing peers. A desire to make the voices of the detained heard. An anonymous contact provided valuable information (this is also credited in the thanks at the end of Spring) • Her own experience includes the confiscation of a packet of buttons (the spare set you get with a new outfit) in case they were used to write a message. • The detention centres are actually a “detention estate” (like a housing estate). (Online, the phrase used is “The UK immigration detention estate is one of the largest in Europe”) Everything is connected • The year 1922. This was the timing of Rilke and Mansfield inhabiting, unknown to one another, the same space • 1922 T.S. Eliot in the Margate beach shelter. "On Margate sands/I can connect/Nothing with nothing” • 1922 Michael Collins in Ireland. How relevant to the NI/Brexit debate now. • During the 18th century, the Jacobite rebellion in Scotland (1745) led to a significant militarisation of the country by English government forces. The Battle of Culloden features in Spring as a significant place in which the union was threatened. Ali went to Culloden as an alternative to visiting Switzerland, because she injured herself… the novel dynamic shifted a bit as a consequence. • Tacita Dean. Four leaf clovers; clouds in Pericles; icloud and the loss of stored pictures • The DNA in us ‘makes meaning from the random’ Forgotten Women • In Autumn -Pauline Boty. A pioneer. “Analytical about gender in pop art” (best ever). “Her spirit blessed that book” • Ethel Walker (1910-painter of Hepworth). She was Tacita Dean. Now forgotten. • Barbara Hepworth. The great artist of the c.20th. A picture bought online for $300.00 by an American who had no idea who she was. The “Givens” • Spring was a much tougher book to write than its two predecessors. • Ali doesn’t know how/when the book will take off… until she gets that moment she calls “the Givens” (a quick google search turns up Ali Smith at the 2014 Goldsmiths Prize nomination and the publicists summary time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real - and all life's givens get given a second chance • Armistead said Ali has been “accused” of playfulness!!!!!! Kesler said- look at a group of young playful animals. The one that doesn’t play will be the one that dies. Translated Fiction • Asked about sales of her books, (and particularly its transferability into foreign languages and in Europe) Ali said that this isn’t really the point of her work, but it’s nice to be top of the charts for now. • Ali then made a very forceful comment that she is of the opinion that “a book doesn’t exist until it’s been translated”. • There are presently versions of the quartet’s constituents being worked on in forty different languages. Postscript Asked about favourite books: The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell The Old Drift(March 2019) A history of Zambia, with mosquitos. A book with ‘the sting of detail’ (also endorsed by Claire Armistead) With reference to her favourite Spring character, Paddy, I asked Ali if she had used her first pay packet to buy a book at Foyles. The answer… not Foyles, but yes, her first salary did result in buying a book at her much loved local bookstore in Inverness : Leakeys http://forreadingaddicts.co.uk/booksh...

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