Book Review – Spring – Ali Smith
Author: Ali Smith
Year of Release: 2019
Read 340-page hardcover edition in July 2020
In the third of Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet, we turn to a number of characters going through great change, aligning with how change is a key factor for the season of spring as well.
Richard is currently undergoing a personal crisis, with his dear friend and mentor Paddy having recently passed away. Richard is a director who is long since past any notoriety, and is struggling to determine what he should do next.
Meanwhile, Brittany is a young woman working in a UK Immigration Removal Centre, and going through the motions of this work that detains refugees and migrants indefinitely, while they wait for removal from the UK.
A couple of other intriguing characters bring Richard and Brittany together in an unlikely scenario, and through an interesting train and van journey from England to Scotland we explore immigration, how the west treats migrants, the rise of social media, and numerous other topics in the age of Brexit and racism in 2019 Britain.
Ali Smith has continued the success of her seasonal quartet with the third installment, Spring. After the events of Autumn and Winter, we have moved to the changing season of Spring, and run into a complex, interweaving plot involving several characters. Smith has done a great job using plot and characters of this story to raise issues with Britain, and the wider world, in 2019.
At times the style of the novel can become hard to track, in particular when characters Richard and (otherwise interesting) Paddy start talking about their past stories. However, most of the time you as the reader are right alongside Smith, as she deftly moves from main plots of the characters to other commentary on society that connects to what she is talking about.
Smith does a wonderful job criticizing a range of issues in current society. From racism, to how poorly western governments are treating refugees and migrants, to the rise of social media and the demise of individual privacy, Smith finds a way to put it on the page.
Smith is very poetic and lyrical in her style, and this makes for an enjoyable read that challenges us as the reader at the same time. We see that if we are citizens of the western world, we are at times complicit in the luxury we have. Also, we are questioned, how are we supporting others, making things more equitable for others who are looking for safety?
Looking at the characters from Spring and comparing to Autumn and Winter, I would say the characters in Winter were most interesting. However, looking at the novel as a whole, and the commentary on our current society and how Smith is able to weave that into the plot and the novel itself, Spring is slightly better than the previous two novels in the seasonal quartet.
Definitely worth reading, and now looking forward to Summer, the final volume in the quartet!
Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars