Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Title:  Winter
Author:  Ali Smith
Publication Information:  Pantheon. 2018. 336 pages.
ISBN:  1101870753 / 978-1101870754

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "God was dead:  to begin with."

Favorite Quote:  "The internet. A cesspit of naivety and vitriol ... Well, the naivety and the vitriol were always there all along ... The internet's just made them both more visible."

I pick this book, having heard about Ali Smith and her work. She is an acclaimed, award-nominated, and award-winning author. This book is the second in a quartet, each featuring a season as a title. The first was Autumn which I have not read, although I believe the books stand alone. I am, however, intrigued that the quartet begins with autumn rather than spring in keeping with the symbolism of the seasons. Metaphorically, to me, the seasons symbolize the cycle and phases of life. I expect a somewhat philosophical read about family, about aging, about ... well life. I expect to leave the book with a lot to think about.

I suppose that does happen to some extent, unfortunately just not in a good way. I am left thinking about the book, but more puzzled than moved. The book description reads, "Ali Smith’s shapeshifting Winter casts a warm, wise, merry and uncompromising eye over a post-truth era in a story rooted in history and memory and with a taproot deep in the evergreens, art and love." What does that even mean?

That is about my summation of the book. I am not entirely sure what it's about. On its surface, the book is about a small, dysfunctional family gathering for Christmas. However, it begins with a rather disturbing image of the main character who sees a floating head. (For those who may remember, it made me think of the sun in the children's show The Teletubbies! Pretty sure that is not the intention!) Once seen, that image is pretty hard to unsee.

Unfortunately, for me, the book does not improve upon acquaintance. I never quite grasp the characters or the plot; therefore, I never quite care. The writing style is a stream of consciousness going from thought to thought to thought. The very short, choppy sentences add to that feel by creating a staccato beat to the book. The lack of punctuation for dialogue makes this challenge even greater. At times, the writing itself has a hypnotic, poetic feel to it. However, it is prose, and I am left looking for the story in this "post-truth" narrative.

Perhaps, that search is why I am not the reader for this book. In 2016, Oxford Dictionaries named "post-truth" its international word of the year. The dictionary defines the word as "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief." Further explanation provides that the use of "post" does not imply a timeline of after but rather the idea of irrelevance. More often than not, the word is sadly used in the context of politics. This book puts it in the context of a family dynamic.

So, does a "post-truth" era story pulls more to emotions and beliefs rather than a plot for facts? I am not really sure, but that too can work to create a beautiful reading experience. As a reader, I respond to emotion and conviction in a book. Unfortunately, this book does not elicit that reaction either. So, for me, no real plot and no real emotion come through, and I struggle to the end, still searching for either.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment