BY ALI SMITH
A highly imaginative and modern poetic novel, re-modeling and evolving two classic winter stories - Dicken’s A Christmas Carol and Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. Winter, the second in Ali Smith’s quartet, takes the reader on a tale of Christmas past, present and future for a dysfunctional family gathering for the festive season in a lofty house in Cornwall.
The narrative begins with Sophia, a lonely workaholic matriarch in her declining years who has company, but only in the form of a living and breathing floating ‘head’ , reminiscent of Marley’s ghost. As well the arrival of her estranged sister, Sophia’s son Art, brings homes a ‘fake’ girlfriend to deceive his mother and survive the xmas period, fearful of his own inadequacies. It’s a surreal world from the outset with references to the art world and a political landscape referencing Greenham Common, topical environmental issues and Brexit - all set against the everyday.
It’s a weird and poetic deconstruction of our perceptions of reality versus fake - plus a muddling of words with plenty of layers of meaning to be studied. As such, this book was not for everyone in the Den but you cannot fault Ali Smith’s clever and beautiful working of the novel. Plenty to talk about in your book club, but don’t expect too much festive cheer.
The Den previously reviewed the first instalment of Autumn, and Ali Smith’s Spring was released earlier this year if you want to get ahead of your club.
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