Winter (Smith) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
All multibook "projects" have a kind of ambition and grand vision, but they must also function close up, book by book, chapter by chapter. That is true of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels and Karl Ove Knausgaard’s work. (He is writing his own seasonal quartet, having just published Winter.) While Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels, looked at in the aggregate, are a way to understand family trauma, Smith seems to be using her cycle as a way to process the larger trauma of our breaking, swirling world — over time, over human moments, over seasons. Each novel will give her a new chance to inspect her preoccupations in a different light. In Winter, the light inside this great novelist’s gorgeous snow globe is utterly original, and it definitely illuminates.
Meg Wolitzer - New York Times Book Review


A capacious, generous shapeshifter of a novel.… [A] book with Christmas at its heart, in all its familiarity and estrangement: about time, and out of time, like the festival itself (The Best Fiction of 2017).
Guardian (UK)
 

[There are] glimmers of life, laughter and love.… Smith threads passages of delicately observed natural beauty throughout the ephemera. She often lets the language itself lead her (hence her love of puns), and the intricate narrative rolls back and forth smoothly in time.
Times Literary Supplement (UK)


Smith’s deceptively unshowy writing evokes every shade of emotion.… Themes and experiences entangle, making Winter a dense, satisfying read.… It’s to Smith’s credit that Winter works on a number of levels, from a straightforward, quotidian tale about a fractured family to a deeper story packed with symbolism and highbrow literary references: a subtle meditation on loneliness, loss and aging in uncertain times.
Irish Independent


One of Britain’s most important novelists.… Winter is narrated with Smith’s customary stylistic brio … punctuated with clever word play.… Heartwarming.
Irish Times


The novel is lucid and tightly constructed.… [I]ts disparate strands converge tautly to convey and deepen Smith’s powerful political message.… This wintry spirit of benevolence animates Smith’s vision of a world where empathy overrides divisions and where animosity can melt like snow.… Smith’s voice, so wise and joyful, is the perfect antidote to troubled times: raw and bitter in the face of injustice, yet always alive to hope.
New Statesman (UK)
 

Smith combines her state-of-the-moment themes with a preoccupation for how to behave in a meaningful way in an increasingly technocratic world—and she does so with an effervescent seriousness none of her peers can match.
Daily Mail (UK)
 

A novel of great ferocity, tenderness, righteous anger and generosity of spirit that you feel Dickens would have recognised.… Winter is at its most luminously beautiful when the news fades and merges with recent and ancient history, a reminder that everything is cyclical. There is forgiveness here, and song, and comic resolution of sorts, but the abiding image is of the tenacity of nature and light.
Observer (UK)
 

Smith has both a telescopic and a microscopic eye.… Her many-layered artistry softens rage or sorrow.… If Ali Smith’s four quartets in, and about, time do not endure to rank among the most original, consoling and inspiring of artistic responses to "this mad and bitter mess" of the present, then we will have plunged into an even bleaker midwinter than people often fear.
Financial Times (UK)
 

Smith’s prose—that trademark mischievous wit and wordplay, a joyful reminder of the most basic, elemental delights of reading—makes us see things differently.… The entire book is testament to the miraculous powers of the creative arts.… Winter firmly acknowledges the power of stories. Infused with some much needed humour, happiness and hope.
Independent (UK)
 

A novel which, in its very inclusiveness, associative joy, and unrestricted movement, proposes other kinds of vision.… [A]stonishingly fertile and free.… [Smith] finds life stubbornly shining in the evergreens.… [T]old in a voice that is Dickensian in its fluency and mobile empathy.… Leaping, laughing, sad, generous and winter-wise, this is a thing of grace.
Guardian (UK)
 

Combines comedy with social criticism, playfulness with political indictmen.… Structurally, the book is intricate: a collage of flashbacks, flash-forwards and interior monologues.… Smith is a self-consciously aesthetic writer who also has strong political convictions.
Sunday Times (UK)


Refracted through the lens of a broken family in a broken home, Smith’s vision is almost without redemption, but not quite; beneath the frozen ground, some hope exists.
Times (UK)
 

[A] novel of great ferocity, tenderness, righteous anger and generosity of spirit.… Winter is at its most luminously beautiful when the news fades and merges with recent and ancient history, a reminder that everything is cyclical. There is forgiveness here, and song, and comic resolution of sorts, but the abiding image is of the tenacity of nature and light.
Observer (UK)
 

[Smith] is cresting across the contemporary in a manner few novelists can manage.… Winter is a novel in which the cold also reveals clarity. Things crystallize. They become piercing and numbing at the same time. It is a book about being wintry in the sense of supercilious and hibernal, in its sense of wanting to shut the world out. The characters have to deal with both impulses, and deal with them in different ways. But the end result is a book that makes one think, and thinky books are rare as hen’s teeth these days.
Scotsman


Like Autumn, the novel employs a scattered, evocative plot and prose style, reflecting the fractured emotional, intellectual, and political states occupied by its contemporary characters. Though [it] misses more than it hits this time out, it’s still…engaging.
Publishers Weekly


(Starred review.) This second installment in Smith’s seasonal quartet combines captivating storytelling with a timely focus on social issues. Enthusiastically recommended; we’re now eagerly awaiting Spring.
Library Journal


(Starred review.) Stunning prose.… [O]ften funny, sometimes wistful, suggesting a garrulous old friend riffing on a gripe or sharing an anecdote. Smith knits together the present-time narrative and many flashbacks to reveal secrets, ironies, old loves, and the unfolding lives enriched by them. A sprightly, digressive, intriguing fandango on life and time.
Kirkus Reviews

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