Book Review – Winter – Ali Smith
Author: Ali Smith
Year of Release: 2017
Read 322-page hardcover edition in February 2019
Ali Smith continues her seasonal quartet with book two, Winter. Following up on last year’s Autumn, this novel continues a melancholy current look at the United Kingdom. Considered as one of the first post-Brexit novels, Winter looks at several characters coming together in an old home with secrets and stories for a bizarre Christmas.
Arthur is getting ready to head home to his aging mother’s home for Christmas. To make matters worse, his girlfriend has broken up with him, destroying his laptop during their last fight. When he gets out to his mom’s house, he finds her in bad shape, seeing visions. Now, four very different people get together for Christmas, and the different strains of individual lives and the Brexit environment of the UK will create a powerful dynamic.
Ali Smith has done her usual great job creating a novel that feels very poetic and lyrical, exploring complex and layered themes. Smith is at her best when connecting ideas and themes with thoughtful prose. Smith has a unique style that feels very poetic.
Themes of this second novel in the seasonal quartet, are very much connected to the cold, lonely, barren landscapes of winter. Smith has channeled some Charles Dickens but also her own style, as she explores winter. Smith does an amazing job as she explores magic and ghosts around the Christmas season, the exploration of family strain and disagreement at Christmas, the family meal (and feud) at Christmas, and the larger themes of Brexit, racism, and political strain in the UK and wider world in 2017. Themes on an individual level, a family level, a larger global level, and how they relate to winter as a season, are explored beautifully.
Smith also does a nice job of creating several unique individual characters that are funny and that have interesting dynamics between them. Smith has a varied cast, with pros and cons for each character. These are believable characters, who we sometimes get frustrated with, and sometimes really enjoy
Although sometimes the plot moves a little bit too slowly, which may due to the more poetic structure of the novel, as a whole this is an enjoyable novel that feels as cold as the title. Smith’s seasonal quartet continues to be well worth reading.
Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars