WILLIAM2's Reviews > Winter

Winter by Ali Smith
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bookshelves: 21-ce, fiction, uk

Martin Amis said that there seems to be a requisite period of time before one can write about historical events, especially catastrophes. He was referring to 9-11 and his first publication about it—The Second Plane—which did not appear until 2008. Ali Smith, however, in Winter, seems to be writing about Brexit and T.—may his name remain anathema—as it happens. Barely a month could have passed between the time Lord Soames in the House of Commons wolf whistled at a rather attractive female member and when Smith began writing about it. The facts are so quickly appropriated and set down that they feel raw, unprocessed, piecemeal. This gives the novel the feel of a tabloid.

I don’t want my novels filled with current events. I read more than ever now for a novel’s ability to create an alternative world. I don’t read fantasy, but I can see why readers are drawn to fantasy now. I understand the need for escapism and, thus, relief. I’m not putting Smith’s experiment down, but I do admit to not understanding it. John Gardner once wrote about how we read to be immersed in the dream. Well, there’s no dream here. Instead the novel reimmerses us in the topicality we thought we’d put aside. In this age of news hitting you 24/7 from dozens of content sources, is this what we really want—the news invading our novels too? I much prefer the sections here set in the past, perhaps because there’s some consensus on what those times mean.

By contrast, in Smith’s Autumn the news was sufficiently backgrounded amid a wonderful story of a girl and an old man and how their lovely relationship evolves over talks of books and painting over 30 years. Hints of the current unpleasantness arise but do not overwhelm the narrative as they do here.
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Reading Progress

March 21, 2018 – Shelved
March 21, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
March 21, 2018 – Shelved as: 21-ce
March 21, 2018 – Shelved as: uk
March 21, 2018 – Shelved as: fiction
March 22, 2018 – Started Reading
March 25, 2018 –
page 222
March 25, 2018 –
page 222
March 28, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)

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message 1: by Lynne (new)

Lynne King A lovely review William as ever.

WILLIAM2 Hi Lynne! :-) And thanks.

message 3: by Gabriel (new) - added it

Gabriel Cezar Hum, interesting... I loved Autumn, so I'm now more curious than ever to read Winter and see for myself what I'll make of it. Thanks for the thoughts.

WILLIAM2 I’d say read it, Gabriel, because the second half makes it worthwhile. It’s a slog in the first half, for me it was anyway. I have to revise my too negative review, which is largely about the first half. Let us know what you think..

Sean I felt the same way you did about both of the books you mention here. Autumn was so much better. The only thing happening in Winter deeper than the plot was today's politics. Everything else was just kind of draped around it with all the seams showing. That's not what I read novels for either.

WILLIAM2 Mimi: Very thoughtful and broad minded point. Thank you. But Smith’s urgency is simply alarmist. She is in the vague neighborhood of significant historical matters. But she’s too close to the events to give them any real context; that can only come with time. It’s not just a personal preference of mine, time is what we need to understand the past. I agree with you about reading commentary versus facts buried in a fiction. If there is someone out there who finds Smith’s topicality fresh and new and exciting, good for them. I don’t.

message 7: by Flo (last edited Dec 11, 2018 08:38AM) (new)

Flo McDonald About Smith's current events, they are background. I'm impressed that she pulls off a second winner. Lux is her voice I guess, and Lux carries the wit and pathos. And the reconciliation of the sisters too is convincing. Your review led me to the books.

WILLIAM2 Belated but no less effusive thanks for your comments, Mimi!

Pamela J Thanks for this review. I too find this novel (100 pages in...do I finish it?) a bit too tabloid-y and less inventive than Smith's Autumn.

WILLIAM2 I agree, but you might as well slog it out. It’s not that long. And then you’ll be in an unassailable critical position! 😃

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