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Delighted with my two other 2018 judges Cath and Ellie to have picked this as our choice for the 2019 Guardian Not The Booker Prize shortlist My citation thereSpring is the third of Ali Smith s seasonal quartet, a highlight of each literary year with their rhythmic examination of contemporaneous events through wordplay, historical resonance, female artists who capture past decades here Katherine Mansfield and the 1920s , Dickens, Charlie Chaplin Delighted with my two other 2018 judges Cath and Ellie to have picked this as our choice for the 2019 Guardian Not The Booker Prize shortlist My citation thereSpring is the third of Ali Smith s seasonal quartet, a highlight of each literary year with their rhythmic examination of contemporaneous events through wordplay, historical resonance, female artists who capture past decades here Katherine Mansfield and the 1920s , Dickens, Charlie Chaplin and Shakespeare s late romances here Pericles The third of Ali s Smith s seasonal quartet after Autumn and Winter A book I started at the beginning of Spring in the UK and finished 24 hours later at the beginning of Autumn in Australia Interestingly at one point, Richard remembers speaking in the past to his then future wife, who is crying over the end of Spring And if you die before me, he says, I will spend all the time I m alive and not with you negotiating the various time differences across the world so that I can spend as much time as a man possibly can on this planet in springtimeI found this quote interesting and somewhat ironical for two reasons on a personal level, in that I contrived, as noted above, when reading this book to negotiate time differences to escape the onset of Spring and instead spend time in Autumn On a general level, because in 2018 as covered in Spring, Richard is alive and not with his wife however rather than him finding her there, we as the reader realise she is in fact hiding in the pages of Autumn as Wendy Demand SA4AAll of the books feature the firm SA4A Smith, Ali, Quartet, Autumn which has served as a symbol of the threat of faceless and almost unknown multinationals In Autumn, we see SA4A as a quasi police private security firm, in Winter Art works for their entertainments division to enforce copyright on emerging artists In Spring book Britanny works for them at a UK Immigration Removal Centre.But that is far from the only element linking the books These are common elements I have spotted Cover ArtworkA wrap around cover featuring a David Hockney picture of a seasonal tunnel of trees respectively Autumn Early November Tunnel , Winter Winter Tunnel with Snow and Spring Late Spring Tunnel Endpaper artworkEndpaper artwork by a key female artist featured in the book Autumn Pauline Boty s The Only Blonde in the World Winter Barbara Hepworth Winter Solstice and Spring Tacita Dean s Why Cloud Past DecadesA concentration on the modern day resonances of a historic 20th Century decade Autumn 1960s, Winter 1980s, Spring 1920s Summer will I believe feature the 1940s.Note that the 1920s link for Spring is related to Katherine Mansfield who seems to function as a second female artist here alongside Tacita Dean the two together formingof the role played by a single artist in the two previous books Contemporary eventsOf course the key idea of the Quartet is the coverage of immediately contemporary events woven through the text but each book has a concentration on key overarching themes Autumn the Brexit vote, Winter Trump s election, Spring the issue of borders both the Irish border and those erected to deter migrations A link between past political actions from the crucial decade and contemporary events This was a crucial part of the concept of seasonality that Smith set out to explore when she commenced the quartet the concept that our real energy, our real history, is cyclic in continuance and at core, rather than consecutive and how closely to contemporaneousness a finished book might be able to be in the world, and yet how it could also be, all through, very much about stratified, cyclic time In Autumn very deliberate parallels are drawn between the Profumo scandal and the Brexit vote the concept of the lies of those in power In Winter, the environmental and climate change activism of Charlotte Art s ex girlfriend and the refugee involvement of the modern day Iris are linked directly to the Silent Spring inspired environmental activism of the commune where Iris lives many years before and her role in the Greenham Common protests In Spring the Irish border complications to the Brexit issue are linked to the death of Michael Collins in 1922 Think about it Ireland in uproar Brand new union Brand new border Brand new ancient Irish unrest Don t tell me this isn t relevant all over again in its brand new same old way Tragic deathA female artist who died tragically Autumn Boty of cancer, Winter Hepworth of a fire in her studio, Spring Mansfield of TB that death being important to Paddy persuading Richard to reject the play he is being asked to Direct due to its historical inaccuracy.CollectionsA male character with a past link to that artist or who collected that art Autumn Daniel s close relation to Pauline Boty albeit he actually owns and just before the book, then sells a Hepworth Winter Art s father who of course is Daniel s love of Barbara Hepworth Spring the Collected works of Katherine Mansfield which Paddy leaves Richard in her will Art influencing charactersActual works of art of the artist figuring in the book and sparking a character s imagination In Autumn Elisabeth looks at a book of Boty s paintings in Winter Art s mother views a Hepworth sculpture I believe Nesting Stones owned by his father in Spring Richard visits a gallery to view Dean s work The influence of the art as a metaphor for the QuartetThe character s reaction to the art serving as a very deliberate metaphor for what Smith is trying to do in her quartet In Autumn, Elisabeth comments on one of Boty s paintings The cow parsley The painted flowers Boty s sheer unadulterated reds in the re image ing of the image Put it together and what have you got Anything usefulWhich echoes a question Smith asked of herself in an interview as she started work on the concept We ll see what happens I have no idea how the reality will meet the conception I m looking forward to finding out In Winter, Sophia comments of the Hepworth sculptureIt makes you walk around it, it makes you look through it from different sides, see different things from different positions It s also like seeing inside and outside something at oncewhich is a perfect metaphor for how Smith s writing forces us to examine our worldIn Spring, Richard experiences something of an epiphany viewing Tacita Dean s cloud pictures They d made space to breathe possible, up against something breathtaking After them, the real clouds above London looked different, like they were something you could read as breathing space This made something happen too to the buildings below them, the traffic, the ways in which people were passing each other in the street, all of it part of a structure that didn t know it was a structure, but was one all the same Again this seems a metaphor for thehopeful elements emerging in Smith s Spring trying to gives us space away from the clouds which seem to be oppressing our society and help us to see the bigger picture and our fundamental interconnectedness Time ContainersWhen discussing the quartet, Smith commented But we re time containers, we hold all our diachrony, our pasts and our futures and also the pasts and futures of all the people who made us and who in turn we ll help to make in every one of our consecutive moments minutes days yearsIn Autumn this concept was captured particularly in Daniel s dreams and his memories of his fleeing from Nazi Germany and of his brilliant sister killed in the holocaust In Winter the concept is evenexplicit when discussing Art s visions of the floating coastline, Lux explains what she calls her own coastline In Spring the idea is I think best captured in the almost interminable 11.29 on the railway platform in Kingussie as Richard reflects on much of his life Is a single minute really this long Is the clock that s broken the one inside him Rhythmic chaptersAn rhythmical chapter, clearly designed to be read aloud Autumn the famous All across the country chapter which Smith seemed to use in most of her readings Winter the opening is dead chapter Spring has two We Want chapters one opening and the other voiced by technology giants ShakespeareA key link to a main Shakespeare plays as well as an opening and seasonally linked Shakespearean Epigraphs and links to other plays The main plays are all one of Shakespeare s late romances Autumn The Tempest, Winter Cymbeline, Spring Pericles Summer will therefore feature The Winter s Tale DickensA key link to a Dickens work Autumn A Tale of Two Cities, Winter A Christmas Carol Spring The Story of Richard DoubledickDickens Opening LinesAutumn starts It was the worst of times, it was the worst of time A Tale of Two Cities starts It was the best of times, it was the worst of times Winter starts God was dead to begin with A Christmas Carol starts Marley was dead, to begin with Spring starts Now what we don t want is facts Hard Times starts NOW, what I want is, Facts TV relationshipsSet alongside the literary references, relationships with TV stars from older years In Autumn Wendy participates in a game show and forms a relationship with her minor celebrity participant a former child TV star in Winter Art s step father was a sitcom star In Spring Richard, is an ex Play for Today Director for TV and meets Paddy, his muse, confidant, closest friend and one time actually make that a double two time lover through their collaboration as Director and writer.Reappearing, related charactersDaniel Gluck, one of the two key characters of Autumn reappears as an earlier lover of a character in subsequent books Sophie in Winter and Paddy in Spring albeit with a different name in the latter mistakenly identified as Andy And, as hinted above, we see in Spring the other main character of Autumn emerging as Richard s daughter.Dysfunctional parent child relationshipsIn Autumn Elisabeth and her mother as well as her missing father, whose identity we only find out in Spring In Winter not just Art and Sophia, but between Sophia and her own father In Spring Richard and his missing daughterA Love of and interest in Charlie ChaplinBoth his work and his own life, introduced in each book by Daniel but then passed on in turn to other characters by those who Daniel infused with his love for ChaplinTrees as a recurring image throughout the bookA delight in wordplay and punningNote that play is a fundamental concept to Ali Smith She remarked at a book event at Foyles that it is important that dramas are called plays, that playfulness and imagination are fundamental to her world view, and that she once heard a comment which she found very true that if you watch a group of young animals for example kittens , if one of the them is not playing it probably is a sign that the animal will not survive for long.Character s names which form part of that punningArt in Winter being matched by Brit in Spring, as well as Florence and her interaction with the immigration Machine with perhaps Elisabeth s surname Demand being the Autumn equivalent Non native punnersA character who delights in wordplay and expanding other character s appreciation of language, ironically but presumably very deliberately given the immigration and Brexit ideas running through the books in each cases a non native English speaker.In Autumn, Daniel broadens the language of the young Elisabeth in Winter Lux has a great grasp of English language and literature and her own name serves as a pun at one stage Lux Lexiography In Spring the character is Florence The importance of postcardsA postcard from Daniel to Sophie forms a key link between Autumn and Winter In Spring postcards form a link between Richard and Paddy and his imaginary daughter and feature in the stories of Mansfield and Rilke as retold by Paddy In Richard s letter to the screenwriter Terp a failed attempt to dissuade Terp from adapting the gentle, literary novel April about the near meeting of Mansfield and Rilke in Switzerland in 1922, into a preposterous bonk buster, he proposes changing the script to a series of postcards, observingOur lives often have what we might call a postcard nature Eduardo BoubatAn early reference within the first ten pages to Eduardo Boubat s petite fille aux feuilles mortes jardin du Luxembourg Paris 1946 In Autumn Daniel remembers the postcard of it that he bought in Paris in the 1980s In Winter, Sophie the recipient we later realise of the postcard is reminded of the postcard by the disembodied head she starts seeingIn Spring, a disembodied voice perhaps taken, as we later realise is much of the book, from Florence s Hot Air book says I m the child who s been buried in leaves with a later reference to children with clothes as ragged as suits of old leaves The symbolism of fences and commons The image that Ali Smith first thought of when she envisaged the Seasonal quartet was a fence and as commented in my opening remarks the key for Ali Smith throughout this quartet was to emphasise that nothing is not connected and that division is a lie In Autumn Elisabeth s mother is shocked by a fence erected on a common near her home the fence serving a metaphor for Brexit In Winter Iris chains herself to a fence at the very start of the Greenham Commons protests In Spring the fences are in the Immigration centre and the replacement of the commons by enclosures was the first stage of the Highland clearances which feature in the novel I d like to apologize for giving Spring only 5 stars, because this rating still fails to reflect the book s genius In the third installment of her seasonal quartet after Autumn and Winter , Ali Smith writes about the human longing to be seen, to have a home in the world and in other people Once again, the book shines with its exquisite ability to intertwine the personal and the political, to show art as life force as real as human relationships and the natural seasons, and all of that is co I d like to apologize for giving Spring only 5 stars, because this rating still fails to reflect the book s genius In the third installment of her seasonal quartet after Autumn and Winter , Ali Smith writes about the human longing to be seen, to have a home in the world and in other people Once again, the book shines with its exquisite ability to intertwine the personal and the political, to show art as life force as real as human relationships and the natural seasons, and all of that is conveyed in a perfectly orchestrated story written in the most poetic, powerful and innovative prose Wow, Ali Smith, how the hell do you achieve this Spring has two main narrative threads We meet Richard, an elderly director, who just lost his beloved best friend and collaborator Patricia Paddy and falls into a deep depression people who read the first two parts of the quartet should pay close attention who Richard s daughter is Feeling like he lost his emotional home and dissatisfied with his current prospects on the job market, he boards a train and heads north, to Scotland, with no specific destination The other storyline concerns Brittany, whose name refers to the French region, but she is called Brit like the people living in, you know, Britain if you want to find out how clever this is, check out the history of the French region Her naming is especially relevant considering that she works in a detention center for migrants who travelled north in search of a better life One day on her way to work, she meets a young girl named Florence, and they spontaneously embark on a journey to the north All of those people eventually meet and they take some consequential decisions regarding their own ability to truly see others, and thus themselves Throughout the story, there are some vignettes that poetically reflect modern society, the current political climate and the suffocating effect all the hate that is circulating has on all of us Once again, the book as a piece of art dicusses other works and artists, thus proving art s power as a catalyst, as a means of expression, a unifying force, and as a resource of solace The whole book manages to feel uplifting, although it discusses rather depressing issues that s the magic of Ali Smith She makes the reader feel seen, or as my GR friend Lee put it This is literature as medicine Beautiful Ali Smith is our oracle Spring is the third instalment in Ali Smith s Seasonal quartet of novels, which examine the current state of Britain through the lives of everyday people By writing as close to publication as possible, Smith transforms your news feed into something deeply humane and essential To me, they are balm for the soul.A few things you might like to know about the series These books can be read in any order but the publication sequence is probably best, keeping the seasons in Ali Smith is our oracle Spring is the third instalment in Ali Smith s Seasonal quartet of novels, which examine the current state of Britain through the lives of everyday people By writing as close to publication as possible, Smith transforms your news feed into something deeply humane and essential To me, they are balm for the soul.A few things you might like to know about the series These books can be read in any order but the publication sequence is probably best, keeping the seasons in their natural order They re not difficult books They might sound high minded, with so many references to literature and art, but they are very accessible I ve never read Rilke or Katherine Mansfield, and only small amounts of Dickens and Shakespeare certainly not Pericles, which Spring invokes , and this didn t diminish my enjoyment one bit Smith is clever really clever but her intelligence is so warm and generous, her writing never intimidates or alienates the reader She invites us in as equals, to be an active part of this project and its shining ideas They re political books, but it s not the terse, abstracted politics of most journalism these days Spring is compassion, it is life, it is the human face of political discourse the way only fiction can be It s the antidote to antipathy The four novels will form a larger work I m sure it s no accident that each of the books is divided into 3 parts, just like the movements of Vivaldi s The Four Seasons Only when Summer is published next year will the full scope of this project be revealed While I ve loved all three, Spring is my favourite so far In this third book, Smith s techniques are honed to a fine point What appears to be a meandering narrative, dovetails into a perfect story arc in the most satisfying way Every tiny detail resounds on multiple levels, not least the references to poetry art depicting clouds It s a perfect metaphor with its layered evocations of spring showers cyclical Nature transience clouded as in obscured, muddled or murky data clouds overhanging darkness and maybe silver linings.Comparisons to Dickens are apt Each book begins with a riff on a famous Dickenisan intro, and they share a playfulness with language, especially names In Spring there s Florence flora spring foreign , Brit Britain also brittle , Paddy Ireland , Alda Auld, Alba Scotland Last names are important too Heal, Lease new lease of life , Smith forger someone who makes and repairs There are differences of course Smith dispenses with the huge casts of characters, the broad caricatures, the mawkish sentimentality It s not so much Dickens style but his role that Smith has adopted as a chronicler, social critic and moralist, wielder of words and the novel as tool vehicle for social conscience.Smith speaks with great urgency about the moral questions of right now, while also reminding us of the grander sweep of history, and that nature s clock is epochal But somehow, highlighting our temporal insignificance strengthens her message of connectedness and the imperative to act Compare this to the pessimism of Richard Powers Pulitzer winning The Overstory, in which our human efforts appear puny and futilitarian instead, Smith s zoom out, zoom in approach allows us the space to see our moment clearly In doing so, she restores us to hopein hac spe vivo.From the story of a dancing girl in pagan times who refuses to become a human sacrifice, to a young girl whose persuasive abilities verge on Jedi mind tricks from the battle of Culloden to the secret underground network known as the Auld Alliance, rebellion marks every page of Spring like an explosion of green life breaking free of icy winter With characteristic wordplay, Smith implores us to revolve We ll begin again We ll revolve.You mean we ll evolve, Brit says.No, I mean revolve, the girl says As in revolution We ll roll forward to a new place.You mean revolt, Brit says You re talking about revolting.I mean revolve, the girl says.No you don t, Brit says.I do We ll turn it round, the girl says We ll do it all differently This book about humanising the machine reminds us that time s factory brings the renewal of spring after darkness In this hope we live Ah, you re reading the book with the Hockney tree image again The branches have lots of new leaves, I see Yes, yes YES This is the third book in the series I m very excited Can t turn the pages fast enough Slow down, no need to rush No one s calling Time No one s saying, Read up Read up You re right, you re right I need to be calm and savor every budding idea, every blossoming image That s it, nice and easy It s only early April, after all And you have so many other books on yo Ah, you re reading the book with the Hockney tree image again The branches have lots of new leaves, I see Yes, yes YES This is the third book in the series I m very excited Can t turn the pages fast enough Slow down, no need to rush No one s calling Time No one s saying, Read up Read up You re right, you re right I need to be calm and savor every budding idea, every blossoming image That s it, nice and easy It s only early April, after all And you have so many other books on your book pile Eliot, Tokarczuk, Ovid How s Metamorphoses going by the way Too MeToo for me Too many rich dicks manipulating the powerless Think of Philomel And too many changed women Think of Daphne I love trees and leaves, but to be detained inside a tree for ever Not even a Hockney tree would make that ok And what about Eliot and Tokarczuk Madame Sosostris meets Blind Teresias meets Cassandra That describes my book pile right now It s as if all four books I m reading are linked Ah, April is the cruellest month Too many books, not enough time Not enough time to slow read, to deep think, to follow the links, especially between Tokarczuk and I didn t catch what you said there I was just musing to myself about Ali Smith and Olga Tokarczuk, two powerful twenty first century writers who share their year of birth 1962 But they sharethan that their themes and writing styles overlap quite a bit though they haven t met as far as I know There s always absence in their work, missing things, unsaid things, the neighbor gone but where, the man with the hollow core, the hole in the tree trunk, the bite out of the piece of chocolate, loose button holes, people imported, exported, pulled and pushed across borders, missing persons, persons missing I feel the weight of the untold in their work like pain in an amputated limb Why do you always live books so intensely If a character has a certain dream, you have the dream too Your reading skin s too thin Is there nothing in your head but I know, I know O, o, o, books morph in my mind like in that old Shakespearian rag, Orpheus with his lute made trees, and the mountain tops that freeze Tell you what You need to do something different, maybe watch a movie Reading these books is like watching a movie I feel I m the camera, that I have a birds eye view I m flying high over Eliot s Wasteland, clods of cloud floating by, full of all the deleted stuff in the world, photos, documents, lost people, forgotten verses, Frisch weht der Wind, Der Heimat zu, Mein Irisch Kind, Wo weilest duSounds like you re high alright Have you been eating magic mushrooms Not mushrooms, just air and water up here Though air and water, like mushrooms, can mean different things to different people Depends on whether you re imprisoned or free, living or dying Somehow you ve got me thinking of death by water You always mess with my head when we discuss Ali Smith And this Tokar chick s just as bad Oh, yes, Olga Tokarczuk deals with ways of dying too Her work and Ali Smith s intersect in so many areas cloud photography, heroes who are humble folk, humanitarian causes morphing with fairy tales, male female Agnis and Aldas, merging like day and night, orange post nuclear wastelands with no seasons Yea, even unto the bones of the dead Cheerful stuff, no doubt about it Ah, but there s light peeping out from behind the dark clouds Do you know what the most important element that unites these two writers is Tell me Both are dedicated to Hope my English breath in foreign clouds by Tacita Dean, Artist review conversation continued from Winter and Autumn Damn This was so good I practically inhaled it How do I even begin to write a review for this incredible novel I am unworthy and unskilled.Ali Smith is a genius A creative, very humane genius I am absolutely blown away, yet again This was magical, touching, surreal and so contemporary As it was the case with the previous instalments of this quartet, Smith introduces the reader to another female artist, who has been forgotten This time is the New Zealander writer Katherine Mansfield, w Damn This was so good I practically inhaled it How do I even begin to write a review for this incredible novel I am unworthy and unskilled.Ali Smith is a genius A creative, very humane genius I am absolutely blown away, yet again This was magical, touching, surreal and so contemporary As it was the case with the previous instalments of this quartet, Smith introduces the reader to another female artist, who has been forgotten This time is the New Zealander writer Katherine Mansfield, whom I plan to read Otherfamous artists are mentioned, such as Rainer Maria Rilke, Charlie Chaplin, Beethoven and othercontemporary such as Noname, Florence The Machine I adore her.The way Smith interweaves the old with the new, the art and the current social issues, is remarkable At the core of this novel is the refugees plight and how unjustly, horribly, inhumanely they re treated in a country that colonised pretty much half of the world Spring is very accessible while being very smart, filled with symbolism, and art, and history, and current events and issues It is probably my favourite of the three.So it s going to my favourites shelf I cannot recommend it enough.PS I forgot to mention how I loved the layout, the fonts, font size, the cover and general physical feel of this book It was in many ways the cherry on a delicious, gourmet cake Ali Smith has set herself the task of writing these four seasonal novels quickly To help achieve this she uses the same scaffolding in each of them She begins with a play on the opening line of various Charles Dickens works the great British critic of social injustice She ghosts in a Shakespeare play someone something all us Brits can all be proud of In each book she offsets the present day with a distant decade of the 20th century She incorporates into each book a sinister governmenta Ali Smith has set herself the task of writing these four seasonal novels quickly To help achieve this she uses the same scaffolding in each of them She begins with a play on the opening line of various Charles Dickens works the great British critic of social injustice She ghosts in a Shakespeare play someone something all us Brits can all be proud of In each book she offsets the present day with a distant decade of the 20th century She incorporates into each book a sinister governmental corporation SA4A And she filters in the works of a relatively unknown female British artist In Spring, she calls upon the photographer, Tacita Dean But here she also drafts in as artists in residence Katherine Mansfield and Rainer Maria Rilke I haven t read the letters of many authors In fact, apart from Kafka s letters to Milena and Virginia Woolf s letters, the only books of collected letters I ve ever read have been Mansfield s and Rilke s I lived next door to Rilke s brief home in Florence for a while and so was very curious about him Both have a special place in my heart So this should have been exciting Instead I found the role Mansfield and Rilke were called upon to play in this novel gratuitously madcap and dissatisfying Ultimately Mansfield and Rilke are called upon to represent the 1920s and mock the sensationalist nature of modern television productions The lead character in the early part of the novel is a filmmaker and called upon to make a film about a non existent love affair between Mansfield and Rilke Smith has fun mocking contemporary TV but there s the implication that television used to bechallenging and sophisticated a premise that is dubious at best and, ironically, saddles Smith with a form of the make believe good old days nostalgia that prompted so many ageing Brits to vote for Brexit When, at one point the scriptwriter maintains the Irish problem has to feature in any film about a 1920 s meeting of Mansfield and Rilke, my eyebrow lifted in further bafflement Mansfield and Rilke after all have noconnection to Ireland than they do to Iran or Kenya Ultimately, I felt Mansfield is too close to Smith to play such a bit role Mansfield, like Smith, continually sought a lost innocence in her work Like Smith, she saw the good in people and cleverly juxtaposed it with the corruption of daily life Though Mansfield rarely, if ever, mentioned the first world war it was ever present in her work as a kind of impassable divide She was raging against it, much as Smith rages against the machinery of modern life.Thankfully the second half of Spring was muchcoherent and engaging Smith s rage now comes to the fore We re introduced to Brit and her pernicious indifference to the inhumane treatment of the refugees she oversees every day in a detainment institution If Smith s depiction of how these people are treated is accurate, and there s every reason to believe it is, it s the kind of state apparatus the Nazis wouldn t disdain Smith deploys another of her magical females Florence in this case to argue with Brit I m not sure I entirely understood the Brit Florence dynamic Usually Smith s innocents help the corrupt see the errors of their ways In this case, Brit just carries on regardless which made the ending for me a bit of a juiceless lemon There s a sense that Brexit and the various cans of worms it opened was the best gift Ali Smith as a novelist was ever given It s given her preoccupation with the corruption of innocence an entire nation as a stage For me Brexit has flung open shutters on how much there is to be ashamed about in our country in the 21st country Therefore, I m thankful to Ali Smith not only for addressing these ills but also reminding me how much there is to celebrate in life and take optimism from 4.2 stars For me better than Winter but Autumn is still my favourite Structurally it was the most cohesively clever But I m looking forward to reading them consecutively to see how much I ve missed Another near masterpiece from Ali Smith s seasonal quartet in some ways I think this one is the best yet Once again, she weaves a number of strands in a way which can seem almost random, but the further you get into the quartet, thethe whole seems planned, and everything is there for a reason I am not going to write a long detailed review I recommend these, from Gumble s Yard and PaulUpdate 11 April I also recommend these from Neil and JonathanThis time the foreground story Another near masterpiece from Ali Smith s seasonal quartet in some ways I think this one is the best yet Once again, she weaves a number of strands in a way which can seem almost random, but the further you get into the quartet, thethe whole seems planned, and everything is there for a reason I am not going to write a long detailed review I recommend these, from Gumble s Yard and PaulUpdate 11 April I also recommend these from Neil and JonathanThis time the foreground story has two main parts Richard is a TV producer best known for his BBC Plays for Today in the 70s, which were written by his friend Paddy Patricia , who has recently died Paddy is a wonderful creation erudite and perceptive Richard has been asked to produce a sexed up travesty adapting a novel set in Switzerland in the 1920s about Katherine Mansfield and Rainer Maria Rilke, who lived there at the same time but probably never met incidentally Mansfield was also the subject of a story in Public Library and Other Stories, so the links with Smith s earlier work go further than the earlier books in the quartet Paddy explains the various reasons why the adaptation is risible nonsense, and Richard attempts to escape the project After her death he takes a train to Scotland, getting off the train at Kingussie on a whim view spoiler This section ends with Richard s attempted suicide by lying in front of a train, from which he is rescued by a young girl hide spoiler About a third of the way through the focus changes, and we meet Brittany, who works in a detention centre for immigrants run by SA4A, a big company who also play a part in Autumn and Spring The staff play linguistic games to make their roles seem less barbaric She becomes aware of the rumour that a schoolgirl has been walking through the building seemingly invisible to security, and has managed to shame the management into deep cleaning the toilets The girl, Florence, has elements of Greta Thunberg, offering Smith the chance to humanise some deeply unpleasant subject matter by turning it into a modern fairytale Britt meets Florence, who has received a postcard of the golf course at Kingussie and is determined to get there Britt follows her and the pair form a bond.The foreground stories are punctuated by set piece soliloquies on the state of the nation and the state of the earth.In the final part things getcomplicated and these parallel stories intertwine, but I won t spoil that here.As always with Smith the story is full of allusions to real people, mostly artists Tacita Dean is the most prominent visual artist, and in addition to Mansfield and Rilke, Beethoven and Charlie Chaplin play their parts too, as do the Gaelic folksongs of the likes of Julie Fowlis and the story of the battle of Culloden.Smith s politics may be too radical for some tastes, but she never loses sight of the human stories, making parts of the book deeply moving As ever, she delights in wordplay, and once again precocious children play an important part I am really looking forward to the fourth part and the completion of the project *Download Book ↻ Spring ⇵ Spring will come The leaves on its trees will open after blossom Before it arrives, a hundred years of empire making The dawn breaks cold and still but, deep in the earth, things are growing Ali Smith is in deep trouble How in the world is she going to top this with the next instalment of her Season s Quartet This is easily the best novel I have read this year For me it is almost a masterpiece I adored Autumn and didn t think that any of the next three could be as good I thought Winter was tremendous, but still not as good as Autumn, and then Smith gives us Spring This book covers the zeitgeist of a fragile England, Brexit, and immigration, and at times the reader feels trappe Ali Smith is in deep trouble How in the world is she going to top this with the next instalment of her Season s Quartet This is easily the best novel I have read this year For me it is almost a masterpiece I adored Autumn and didn t think that any of the next three could be as good I thought Winter was tremendous, but still not as good as Autumn, and then Smith gives us Spring This book covers the zeitgeist of a fragile England, Brexit, and immigration, and at times the reader feels trapped in a melancholic miasma However, there is a strain of hope that courses through this miasma, threatening all the time to lead the reader out to freedom.Richard Lease is a director of television programs who has just lost his soulmate Paddy Paddy was his scriptwriter who he had worked with for years, and he finds himself lost, directionless on a sea of doubt after her death He eventually finds himself at a train station on the tracks lowering his head onto the rail before he is stopped by a young schoolgirl named Florence With Florence is a woman named Brittany Hmmmm who works as an officer at a detention centre The reason this unlikely pair are together turns out to be that Brittany thinks that Florence is the young girl who walked into her detention centre, spoke with management and somehow miraculously got them to clean the toilets Florence has taken on a form of mystical presence for Brittany Then before Brittany realises what is happening Florence has enlisted her help to find a location on a postcard in Scotland The conversations that ensue between the two are quite brilliant, they talk about borders, climate change, Brexit, racism, but it is all hidden in metaphors and allegory Richard accompanies them on this trip when they all hitch a ride with a woman named Alda who squashes them all into the cab of her coffee truck Smith does a wonderful job with this road trip, with the conversations that take place and the multiple perspectives of the four For instance, one chapter may be Richards perspective of a conversation he is having with Alda, and then the next chapter will jump back in time and provide the reader with the same conversation but from Brittany s perspective listening to them It works a charm All the characters, as with the other characters in Autumn and Winter are such a joy to read Florence, even though Richard is the central character, for me is the star of the book, sensational.This is a book about politics, with politics seeping into just about every story, but the way Smith has written this novel, you never notice, you arefocussed on the personal level of the current story, and there are some good ones I particularly like the one about the tribe who sacrifice a young virgin each year to compel the gods to start the new cycle of life Hints of feminism, as the girl refuses to be sacrificed Why does the sacrifice have to be a woman It could easily be argued that a man could be sacrificed in place A man s seed starts the cycle of life as well There is also a reference to a movie where the male star is remembered but nobody remembers the female lead.Smith masterfully fits so much into this amazing novel There is a short chapter in there devoted to online bullying which Smith just throws in there and pulls it off I might add I admit that there are parts that I have not grasped completely but will bethan happy to return to it again to try to glean a deeper understanding Favourite book this year easily 5 stars I shall be glad though when Spring comes Winter is a difficult time A letter in 1922 from Katherine Mansfield to L.M Lesley Moore, her nickname for Ida Baker, her companion and confidant Spring is the brilliant 3rd instalment of Ali Smith s seasonal quartet and comes with the usual beautiful wrapper on the cover featuring a picture from David Hockney s The Arrival of Spring Mess up my climate, I ll fuck with your lives Your lives are a nothing to me I ll yank daffodils out of the ground I shall be glad though when Spring comes Winter is a difficult time A letter in 1922 from Katherine Mansfield to L.M Lesley Moore, her nickname for Ida Baker, her companion and confidant Spring is the brilliant 3rd instalment of Ali Smith s seasonal quartet and comes with the usual beautiful wrapper on the cover featuring a picture from David Hockney s The Arrival of Spring Mess up my climate, I ll fuck with your lives Your lives are a nothing to me I ll yank daffodils out of the ground in December I ll block up your front door in April with snow and blow down the tree so it cracks your roof open I ll carpet your house with the river But I ll be the reason your own sap s reviving I ll mainline the light to your veins After a trademark Smith prelude about the state of 2019 politics including the death and rape threats to female MPs , the first strand of the novel opens in October 2018 with a film and TV producer, Richard Lease, sitting in a deserted Scottish rural railway station, having decided to to walk away from his office and travel from London Kings X to Inverness, the furthest a train from here to go Why is he here That s the wrong kind of question It implies there s a story There is no story He s had it with story He s removing himself from story,specifically from story concerning Katherine Mansfield, Rainer Maria Rilke, a homeless woman he saw yesterday morning on a pavement outside the British library, and over and above all, the death of his friend The death of his friend refers to a long term collaborator, lover and intellectual soulmate, the script writer, Paddy Heal he later discovers she is n e Patricia Hardiman , mother of two twins the twin , and the other twin and in a recent past section of the novel Spring 2018 dying of cancer The novel also takes us to the 1970s when they first met, when she instantly gives him the name Doubledick which he optimistically hopes is sexual innuendo but actually a reference to the Dickens s The Story of Richard Doubledick We also learn that Lease s wife disappeared from his life in February 1987, taking his 2 year old daughter with her and throughout the novel Richard maintains a dialogue with his imaginary daughter , the person he thinks she may have grew up to be, continuing a suggestion made by Paddy that he visits places, e.g galleries, to which he might have taken his daughter In one such gallery he encounters the work of Tacita Dean, including her stunning The Montafon Letter and she is the novel s foundation female artist, albeit here her work rather than her life is key A view of the Highland mountains that recalled Dean s art is what prompted Richard to get off the train at that particular station, rather than travel all the way to Inverness The dying Paddy and Richard discuss a project on which he has been asked to work with a rather less skilled writer, Martin T w erp, based on a novel April by Bella Powell literary, he says Second novel by Nella, something, Bella A lot of language Not much happens This fictitious novel is based on the real life coincidence of Katherine Mansfield and Rainer Maria Rilke both being in possibly the same hotel in Switzerland in 1922, unknown to each other 1922 is of course, as Paddy proclaims, famous as the Year when anything in literature fractured Fell to pieces On Margate Sands the last a reference to TS Eliot s The Wasteland But Smith chooses to focus on the outliers of the modernist revolution, Mansfield and Rilke The stories Mansfield wrote in Switzerland were her best And him, about to finish the Elegies, write the Orpheus poems the seminal remakers of forms they were using There, in the same room, at the same time And what they write, it changes everything They break the mould They re the modern The likes of Zola and Dickens pass the baton to Mansfield and Rilke, the two great homeless writers, the great outliers Mansfield s letters play an important role The one that opens my review is not quoted in the novel, but a line from another forms one of the novel s epigraph, a letter found unsent in her blotter on her death in January 1923 and assumed to be written days before I am looking for signs of spring already Her words are consciously echoed by the dying Paddy to Richard The simple flowers of our spring are what I want to see again, she says Both fail to live long enough to fulfil their goal, Paddy dying in August 2019 And Richard himself has an erotic dream inspired, bizarrely, by another letter from Mansfield, this one to William Gerhardi, an aspiring author 1922 is also when Michael Collins was killed, and Paddy Smith point out the obvious parallels of the political developments of the time to Spring 2019, with the Brexit deal mired in the Irish border backstop Ireland in uproar Brand new union Brand new border Brand new ancient Irish civil unrest Don t tell me this isn t relevant One of Paddy and Richard s most successful collaborations was on a film called Andy Hoffnung, the title coming from a comic misunderstanding when a stranger sitting next to Paddy at a Beethoven concern seemed to utter those words, which she assumed was his name, but which was actually a reference to the piece An Die Hoffnung Those words of course have echoes of Pericles motto in the Shakespeare play a key foundation text for the novel, and also quoted in the epigraph He seems to be a stranger but his present isA withered branch that s only green at top,The motto In hac spe vivo Paddy never does find the stranger s name but retains a lifelong love of Charlie Chaplin inspired by his enthusiastic advocacy when they go for a drink afterwards But the reader recognises him as Daniel Gluck from Autumn and Winter The above narrative gradually explains Richard s opening remarks, his despair a combination of an absent daughter, a dead soul mate and lover, and indeed T w erp s proposed treatment of April that turns Mansfield and Rilke s lack of an encounter and its artistic significance into a tawdry TV bonkbuster The second strand of the novel starts around the same time with Brittany abbreviated to Brit Hall, an employee of the ubiquitous SA4A, working as an detainee custody officer in a needlessly high security Immigration Removal Centre I m a DCO at one of the IRCs employed by the private security firm SA4A who on behalf of the HO run the Spring, the Field, the Worth, the Valley, the Oak, the Berry, the Garland, the Grove, the Meander, the Wood and one or two others too, she said We also meet Brit s rather dotty mother, although wedded not to junk TV as in the equivalent characters in Autumn and Winter, although we do later get some The Apprentice bashing but now, in a reflection of the times, to the 24 hour news channel I wonder what will happen now, her constant refrain as she watches the unfolding developments, entranced The Centre is visited by a mysterious 12 year old girl Florence, of non British descent indeed possibly the daughter of an immigrant held there She is verbally eloquent, intellectually precocious and mysteriously able to bend others, Derren Brown style, to her will a sort of cross between Elisabeth from Autumn and Lux from Winter An odd rumour has it that she was able to walk into a seedy and dangerous brothel and persuade the male customers of the error of their ways, giving us another clue that the foundational Shakespeare play here is Pericles, this episode echoing Marina s time in the brothel in Mytilene Another clue is the motto on her school blazer Vivunt Spe More relevantly for the plot, she has a similarly transformative effect when she somehow makes it to the office of the director of the Wood, embarrassing him into at least having the facility thoroughly cleaned, after asking him a series of pointed questions I am a twelve year old girl asking you questions I am way old enough to read and comprehend books and things published on the net, and I ve been reading up a lot about these things partly because they touch my life personally but also because I am curious about them anyway, and some of the things I ve read made me want to ask some questions to the people responsible, and you are one of those peopleOn a personal note , I am going to hope or pretend that passage may have been inspired by an encounter, when my 9 year old daughter asked Ali Smith how Autumn would have differed had the UK voted Remain Magically Florences persuades Brit, against her will and political instinct, to team up with her Florence and the Machine and travel with her to Scotland, as she is, like Richard, mysterious drawn to Kingussie station, in her case prompted by a postcard Postcards also play a rather key role in the plot as indeed they did in the writing careers of Mansfield and Rilke The postcards this time don t include a print of Boubat s Girl in Leaf Dress the key link between Autumn and Winter but that does get an implicit mention in a comment on refugees Children with clothes as ragged as suits of old leaves Kingussie is known for the MacKenzie Fountain Outside there is a humourous encounter reminiscent of the Post Office photo saga, but this time with a coffee van run by the town librarian Alda Lyons which turns out to be a pseudonym based on Auld Alliance and inspired by the Andy Hoffnung film The coffee and lemonade van appears to have neither beverage nor indeed anything else an echo of the over catchy Duck Song except here it s the lemonade stall owner who is infuriating And the four embark on a road trip to Inverness and Culloden together, which enables Smith Lyons to educate us about the enclosure of the common lands and the almost ethnic cleansing of the Highland Clearances in the aftermath of Culloden.It wouldn t be a Smith novel without interspersed present day politics although Trump, and his fellows, are mentioned but largely off screen, quite deliberately so as Richard refuses to speak of them never do anything a demagogue narcissist might long for us to do And indeed there is an underlying sense of optimism this too shall pass, Spring arriving after Winter, that these disruptive figures will ultimately go the way of all flesh It ll melt away, like snow in May.The end of the novel jumps back and forth between October 2018 and spring 2019, although without attempting to forecast how Brexit might have gone The Pericles link might hint that Florence may prove to be Richard s long lost daughter, but the ages doesn t match up his daughter would be in her mid 30s Another clue to her identity her first name is Elisabeth and she, using her mother s maiden name, has an unusual surname she may well have been hiding in plain sight to the reader at least , but in another season, all along Pleasingly a full house on my Ali Smith bingo card albeit with a stretch for the compulsory Wimbledon link I could claim the Smith Sumi encounter above, or perhaps that another of Mansfield s letter inspired the title of this poem made blueprints, nearly built a wholeworld, all churches and cafes like inWimbledon Village, like we always dreamed.we always dreamed, but i couldn t do it alone.But some questions where help would be appreciated the significance of Paddy s maiden name, Patricia Hardiman the girl who is looking at the Montafon letter artwork in the gallery was this a scene from a previous novel the postcard that led Florence to Scotland the ingredients for my mother s soup in Tesco the Rise my Daughter Above notebook Florence and the dedication from her mother And 5 stars for another wonderful novel I can t wait for Summer 2020