“Now it’s the dark of early Christmas morning, the time before dawn, and this is the best time in the world for an old song about a lost child travelling in the snow.” ~ Ali Smith, Winter
Team Review: Winter by Ali Smith
Published by Pantheon Books, 2018 (U.S.)
Indiana’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars; Pete’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Re-readability: We’ll probably end up re-reading this entire quartet at some point.
Winter is the second in the Seasonal cycle that Ali Smith is working on. The first is Autumn.
A spoiler-free review
Indiana: So as you know I’m a huge fan of Ali Smith. And I loved Autumn. But while I enjoyed this one, I felt it wasn’t quite as cohesive as her others. The first few chapters, particularly the ones with Sophia and the floating head, were some of the best and most bizarre I’ve ever read.
Pete: I enjoyed the surreal first few chapters, and I was let down by Smith’s plans for the floating head. The plot of Winter was entertaining, but it felt a bit like a sitcom at times, especially with the premise of Art paying someone to pretend to be his girlfriend for the holidays. It was an entertaining idea, but the unraveling of his scheme was inevitable and not entirely satisfying when it finally happened.
Indiana: The sitcom started out pretty funny too! So you have this guy, Art, who is kinda dull. He wants to be a successful nature blogger but it doesn’t seem like he actually goes outside or does all that much research on nature. Oh, and his day job is hunting down people for copyright infringement. Then his girlfriend, who is admittedly not sane, starts asking him to become oh, you know, more involved politically and environmentally, which spirals into a huge argument and they break up. She takes his Twitter and blog and starts posting the most ridiculous crap about nature, saying that he’s seen all these rare birds. And the best part is his blog gets more popular than ever. What Smith is indicating with the power of Twitter and social media to spread misinformation hits home here in the U.S.
Pete: And her willingness to make Twitter and the Internet a focal point of the story gives this book (and her others) a modern feel. While many authors seem to pretend that social media and smartphones aren’t affecting our daily lives, Smith accepts them as a part of the times—and as a result, I think she’ll be remembered as an author of the times. She never does this in an obvious or obtrusive way, either. It’s a part of the story, and it reminds you that this book takes place today and is about today. I was surprised at just how recent some of the events she mentions were. How fast is she cranking these out?
Indiana: That’s a great question and I feel like it once again speaks to how quickly news and information is being disseminated and regurgitated online. Regardless of how this one ended I’m still excited for the following installment in the quartet and I do wonder what sort of “zeitgeisty” topics she’ll be able to cover.
Pete: Because this series is connected only in theme, I’m excited for whatever new story she creates for next time—and what current events she chooses to study.