Outside it is nothing but grey skies, and the temperature is 2 degrees celsius. As I write this I notice that it is snowing. Spring, the season, it shining with its absence (or maybe it’s like this every year and we all just prefer to forget and engage in collective delusions). What has arrived is Spring, the book.
The Ali Smith-fans (The Smithereens? The Smithensians? The fan-club should have a cool name with just a tinge of Dickensian) were on it immediately. I had pre-ordered the minute it was possible to do so. Then I played myself by choosing the slow delivery option as it is free of charge. Ha! I had to wait a full ten days for it (I choose the slow delivery option by default and it usually doesn’t take that much longer but this time, of course, it did).
The opinions then. Smith has built a world in her books and if you like her world and her style, then welcome in. Spring doesn’t change the concept of the seasonal books in the broad strokes: it starts with a riff on a first line from a Dickens novel and it is infused with references to art and full of emotions. It takes its narratives from Pericles by Shakespeare, it was pointed out to me.I haven’t gotten that far in my Shakespeare reading. Smith navigates the classical literature, but the stories of what is happening here and now is her north star in the end.
It is an angry book, that tries to be the mirror that shows the truth to people, when they are shielding themselves from looking at the true consequences of their own behavior. Or maybe she isn’t. I’m also reading Feel free by Zadie Smith, an essay or two every evening, and as she writes about so many the same things I think possibly in my head they have created a joint narrative, I don’t know which Smith wrote what exactly at this point. And I don’t care.
Spring ties together Katherine Mansfield and Rilke through the filmmaker Richard, whose path cross with the girl who got into a detention facility and a security guard that works there. It is full of stories of those in detention, of racism and dehumanizing refugees. The backdrop I guess is a post-Brexit world where there is a rift through society between those that are disappointed because Brexit didn’t bring what was promised (a return to a 70’s that never existed and a white hegemony where they didn’t have to acknowledge the systematic abuse of power) and the people who never thought that Brexit could happen and remain incredoulus and in denial. The young girl is the savior in this story I guess, our Florence could be the next the Jeanne D’Arc or a substitute for the Marina from Pericles.
I do enjoy the jazzy style that Ali Smith has, and the layers of reference to dig through but I understand why some people don’t. It is like poetry in a way, more about being swept away by a feeling and noticing great phrases and observations as they fly by.
It is also a book that I now cannot think about outside of the seasonal-context it is written in: I found Autumn a good book and actually loved Winter. This one I feel is OK but we have passed a point where the individual books in Smith’s seasonal quartet mean less to me and I’m more interested in the whole. There is too much to compare it with.
Other people have written better about it, or more in-depth, or a more standard review : Oosterbook had a very personal take. Providing a more coherent review, I read what Inbookishfashion had to say , and she was also was also very positive.
In short:and don’t know what to say really althoigh there is so much I want to tell you about this book. But not only about this book but also how it connects to other things I’ve read. If you like Ali Smith you probably know by now if you do. And you most likely know about this book already and what I think really won’t matter as you are gonna wanna read it to make up your own mind. I think you should.