Of course after “Autumn” and “Winter” it should be no surprise that Ali Smith’s “Spring” is stunning. It won’t be for everyone, of course; some people will struggle with the language, the tone, the sheer vibrancy of it. And one of its major topics – refugee detention – is hardly a comfortable one. But it is also a story about personal lost (not refugee-related), redemption, and self-discovery too.
Smith’s stated desire to keep the work fresh and relevant pours out of the story. You can see contemporary references, mirrors which allow you to relate to the subject matter. It is a book of our age. Whether taking longer to prepare the work for publication, sacrificing a little of the ‘timeliness’ for another round or two of editing, would make any difference, I somehow doubt. And I think you’d lose too much of its ‘life’ in the process.
I can’t not give it five stars, even though there are two things that, for me, detract from it. The first is the short burst of ranting at the beginning of each of the three sections of the book. I could go back and try and plug them in to the narrative as I’m sure they fit, but I won’t.
The second annoyance is a strange one. In the hardback copy of the book, the publisher has chosen too-large a font, and decided not to justify the text. Which means it all looks a bit untidy, unfinished. Because of the former, you really rattle through it though. It will be interesting to see what they do with the paperback.