Winter? Bleak. Frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone, so the old song goes. The shortest days, the longest nights. The trees are bare and shivering. The summer’s leaves? Dead litter.
The world shrinks; the sap sinks.
But winter makes things visible. And if there’s ice, there’ll be fire.
In Ali Smith’s Winter, lifeforce matches up to the toughest of the seasons. In this second novel in her acclaimed Seasonal cycle, the follow-up to her sensational Autumn, Smith’s shape-shifting quartet of novels casts a merry eye over a bleak post-truth era with a story rooted in history, memory and warmth, its taproot deep in the evergreens: art, love, laughter.
It’s the season that teaches us survival.
Here comes Winter.
I appreciate that book reviews are a matter of opinion, and that not all books are for all people. But sometimes I read a book, look at the reviews, and just can’t get my head around them.
This book has an average of 3.5 stars on Amazon. And yet it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time.
I can’t be completely out of touch with what most other readers think, can I?
Oh well, all I can say is I absolutely loved it. It’s different. It’s clever. It’s skilful, uncompromising. The narrative is firmly rooted in the everyday, in reality, but it meanders around, with a feeling of unreality, delusion, even enchantment that lifts this away from being a novel about Christmas, about family, about the past and coming to terms with it, about the strained relationships that are brought to the fore by an enforced jollity. And yet it is all these things too.
And of course the writing is beautiful, poetic, charming and yet also bleak, harsh, cruel at times. A bit like Christmas.