Read Winter by Ali Smith Online


The dazzling second novel in Ali Smith's essential Seasonal Quartet from the Baileys Prize-winning, Man Booker-shortlisted author of Autumn and How to be both.Winter? Bleak. Frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone, so the old song goes. The shortest days, the longest nights. The trees are bare and shivering. The summer's leaves? Dead litter. The world shrinks; the sap si...

Title : Winter
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Number of Pages : 322 pages
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Winter Reviews

  • William2

    Martin Amis said that there seems to be a requisite period of time before one can write about historical events, especially catastrophes. He was referring to 9-11 and his first publication about it—The Second Plane—which did not appear until 2008. Ali Smith, however, in Winter, seems to be writing about Brexit and T.—may his name remain anathema—as it happens. Barely a month could have passed between the time Lord Soames in the House of Commons wolf whistled at a rather attractive female member ...more

  • Teresa


    This Ali Smith novel, the second of a seasonal quartet, may go down as my least favorite of hers, though being Ali Smith that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it and that I’m not looking forward to Spring, and ultimately, Summer. I envision appreciating it more if I reread it once the series is completed.

    Perhaps Winter suffers in comparison to Autumn for me because there is no rendering of a lively, enticing (real) personage, such as Pauline Doty; though Barbara Hepworth and her art are used as a s

  • Paul Fulcher

    OK I surrender. Upgraded to 5 stars as Ali Smith has made complete fools of us all, myself included.

    Everyone spent so long looking for micro-links between the two novels, no-one (at least not in any review on GR as at 9 November 2017) had spotted (other than as the merest teasing hint) the glaring and very explicit link between the two books - the Daniel-Sophie tryst in Paris that is in the first pages of Autumn and the last pages of Winter, complete with dates and details.

    The more mundane truth

    The thing about Christmas music that’s particularly interesting, she thought to herself in a knowledgeable but not offputting Radio 4 voice as if in a programme on Christmas music, is that’s it’s thoroughly ineffectual, it just won’t and doesn’t work at any other time of the year.
    So perhaps this just wasn’t the right time for me to read this. One for me to revisit when it figures in the 2018 awards or perhaps in Spring 2019 when the third book comes out. But it felt like a re-working of Autumn from an author whose biggest strength has been her originality, with The Accidental thrown in as well. And this Irish Times review summed up the political side of the novel well (

    In lieu of a proper review (read those by Gumble's Yard, Neil, Eric or Robert for a more favourable take):

    My Ali Smith seasonal quartet bingo card

    The Edouard Boubat image which Daniel gave to Sophie and each character recalls in the opening chapter of Autumn and Winter respectively:

    The Barbara Hepworth (the cornerstone artist from Winter) statue from my old College, a piece of art the students were allowed if not encouraged to climb on and through, with the room in which I spent 1987-8 on the right hand side. But here's the thing - many students (myself included) attributed the work to Henry Moore (whose sculpture also featured there), rather making one of Ali Smith's points about overlooked female artists:

    Ali Smith, who in person if not always on the page, is perhaps my favourite author, presenting my daughter with a copy of Autumn in Wimbledon (a place that forms perhaps the key link between the two books):


  • Mary

    But we were wounded, I was wounded, all the same. And I love my family, I love them, but when I'm with them, my wounds reopen. So I can't live with them. I can't be with them. So I came here.

  • Cheri

    4.5 Stars

    ”God was dead: to begin with.

    “And romance was dead. Chivalry was dead. Poetry, the novel, painting, they were all dead, and art was dead. Theatre and cinema were both dead. Literature was dead. The book was dead.”

    “Love was dead.

    Death was dead.

    A great many things were dead.

    Some, though, weren’t, or weren’t dead yet.”

    “Imagine being haunted by the ghosts of all these dead things. Imagine being haunted by the ghost of a flower. No, imagine being haunted (if there were such a thing as being

  • Roger Brunyate

    A Winter Thaw

    Autumn, the first volume in Ali Smith's tetralogy-in-progress, was #2 on my Top Ten list for 2017. At first, reading Winter, its successor (how fast she writes!), I was pretty sure that it would not reach a similar standard; it seemed haphazard and jokey, strung-together rather than composed. And yet my sadness at coming to its end makes me think again. If this is the scherzo of a four-movement symphony, it is one of those movements where the playfulness feeds into a lovely long tun

    Not an idiot. An idiolect. That’s what he is, a language no one else alive in the world speaks. He is the last living speaker of himself. He’s been too blithe, he’d forgotten for a whole train journey, for almost a whole day, that he himself is dead as a disappeared grammar, a graveyard scatter of phonemes and morphemes.
    Behind the word-play (for everyone in this novel is very, very smart), this is a picture of a man who has forgotten how to feel, even how to live, a man mired in winter. The opening page of the novel, in Art's voice, makes this very clear:

    God was dead: to begin with.

    And romance was dead. Chivalry was dead. Poetry, the novel, painting, they were all dead, and art was dead. Literature was dead. The book was dead. […]
    It turns out, thought, that this too is a word game; Art is sitting at a computer entering different terms into Google followed by “is d," and noting how many come up with "…is dead" as the first item. But—and here's the point—this nihilistic cleverness does not go unchallenged. Beyond all the many things in the contemporary world (and the book is very contemporary) that make January 2018 a winter in more senses than one—a general callousness towards the environment, immigrants and refugees, and the retreat from global engagement represented by Trump and Theresa May—there is a much more positive view of the season:

    That’s what winter is: an exercise in remembering how to still yourself then how to come pliantly back to life again. An exercise in adapting yourself to whatever frozen or molten state it brings you.
    And that, ultimately, is the point of the book.


    After Art tells her about his vision of the chunk of cliff hanging over his head, Lux shares her concern with Iris:

    After you came out here, when you were asleep. I said, Art is seeing things. And your aunt said, that’s a great description of what art is.
    Another pun, but it points to one of the greatest joys of reading an Ali Smith novel: that its story has a parallel life in its references to art of all kinds, painting, sculpture, and music. And, as was the case with Autumn also, it offers a time-capsule into the cultural world of the sixties, seventies, and eighties. There is even a theme song of sorts, the German folksong "Muss i denn," which Iris and Sophie first heard sneaking out to see GI Blues in 1960, sung by Elvis Presley. Listen to it on YouTube: not only is it a reminder of how young and almost beautiful Elvis was in those days, the tune itself is a ear-worm that sticks with you for the rest of the novel.

    Among the other songs that are mentioned is "Mary's Boy Child," as sung by the Swedish duo Nina and Fredrik. There is a live studio recording of this from 1958 that I suspect Ali Smith has been watching. For the two are shown, improbably, on an airfield.

    Perhaps the planes in the background are for passengers, but they look awfully like American bombers. Which provides a segue to Iris's involvement in the Women's Peace Camp, set up in 1981 outside the RAF base at Greeham Common in England, to protest its being used for American cruise missiles. Amazingly, it remained in situ until 2000.

    I offer three more images without explanation, but as a companion for those that read the novel for themselves. They are only a few examples of the pleasure that is to be had reading with Google Images and YouTube by your side. Even when the references seem random, there is a kind of rightness about them—the simple harmony of a Barbara Hepworth sculpture, for instance—that says more than even Ali Smith's words can. I mentioned my feeling of being swept up in a musical scherzo, but that is only one of the two contrasting tempi of this novel. The other is a quiet continuity that extends beyond the lives of the two generations seen here, and suggests that, however topical its subject, however audacious its political commentary, the heart of the novel is timeless.

    Ethel Walker: Portrait of Miss Barbara Hepworth (detail)

    Barbara Hepworth: Two Forms

    Canada Warbler ...more

  • Jennifer

    I think this is very, very good and I love it very, very much. Video review coming soon.

  • Lisa

    An adult son returns home to visit his mother for Christmas. Winter is a clever, elusive and moving novel about family and relationships where nothing is quite what it seems. Smith's language is so vivid that images materialized in front of me as I was reading.

    I'm looking forward to Spring!