Book Review – Winter

Winter by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton) ISBN: 9780241207031

Last year I raved about Autumn, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, but I think Winter is even better. It is the second book in Smith’s seasonal quartet.

She writes with humour and psychological insight and is a master magician of language: the novel is full of puns and wordplay. And just like in Autumn, time, space and nature play an important role. ‘God was dead: to begin with.’ Smith must have chuckled when writing that first sentence.

The story is about an eccentric family: Sophia Cleves, her estranged sister and political activist Iris, her son Art (who asks a girl at the bus stop to pretend she is his girlfriend Charlotte, as he doesn’t want to tell his mother that he split up). They gather at a large dilapidated house in Cornwall for Christmas. There is also a floating head and a piece of landscape hanging over the dining table, only visible to one of the characters.

Sophia doesn’t want the family there and she hasn’t prepared anything: the fridge is empty and they are asked to sleep in a shed outside. Lux, the Charlotte-impersonator, phones Iris to come along and manages like Shakespeare’s Cymbeline to bring Art, his mother and her sister together again.

Food for thought. Highly recommended.

Pauline Vijverberg