...as raw as this morning’s Twitter rant and as lasting and important as — and I say this neither lightly nor randomly — Ulysses ... Smith has always been sharp and brutal, and often funny, in her Kafkaesque moments — fruitless passport or loan applications, attempts to unsubscribe from emails — but when she skewers the inner workings of a bureaucracy that detains asylum seekers indefinitely, the tone rises correspondingly to the desperate laughter of gallows humor, the deadpan of the dead at heart ... Smith never physically describes the young Florence ... This shouldn’t work — what author gets away with a fundamentally foggy main character? — yet it does. Florence’s vagueness feels authentic and fundamental, self-protective, not as if Smith is using her as a symbol but (wonderfully) as if Florence is using us ... Spring slants more postmodern than its two predecessors ... Smith offers an excuse for those sections: They’ve been written in a notebook by the precocious Florence.It’s a shift in the novel’s framing that doesn’t quite work, and not just because 12 seems too young to have written these passages ... The overall work is still a marvelously manic patchwork ... That Smith manages to show things falling apart as well as some small center holding is to her great credit ... the defining, if baffling, literature of an indefinable and baffling era.
Open Spring, and words erupt off the page, a wide-ranging rant of demands and wants, as if the tantrum of our political moment has found a voice. But then! Another voice rises, all-powerful Mother Earth promising, in spite of humanity’s puny mewling and intransigence, to once more bring green spring out of the deadly mess we’ve made. This is Ali Smith, the crazy-brilliant Scottish writer ... Chockfull of Smith’s joyous language, wordplay and aphorisms, snippets of pop songs and folktales, classical allusions and appreciations of artists from Rilke and Mansfield to the extraordinary cloud- and mountain-conjuring Tacita Dean, Spring is as fierce in its conviction and sure in its connections as that first, earthly voice that, after its vision of devastation, issues this promise: 'I’ll be the reason your own sap’s reviving. I’ll mainline the light to your veins.'
I love the brassy blast of [Smith's] outrage at the world's injustices and the drumbeat of her passion for the arts. This Scottish writer gravitates naturally to outsiders and really understands loss and grief. She takes a genuine interest in old people and what we can learn from them, but also sees hope for the future in smart young people. I love her clever wordplay, her insistence on the life-enhancing possibilities of love and decency, and her ability to compose artful literature that sings of both humanity's heart and heartbreaks. All of these qualities are on abundant display in Spring, the third volume of Smith's seasonal quartet ... Spring uncoils strikingly, like a vernal fern. It feels fresh even though Smith returns to so many of her familiar themes: the bleak contemporary political landscape, loss of a soul mate, fractured families, nature's seasonal clockwork, and references to a real artist (Tacita Dean this time) and a Shakespeare play ... Postcards crop up in this book like signposts, no mere ephemera. The initially puzzling inclusion of off-putting anti-immigrant rants will become clear with time. About such bloviating, Smith reminds us: 'Hot air rises and can not just carry us but help us rise above.' So can her novels.
... the most political book thus far in this earthy and humane series. Its heart is worn far out on its sleeve. It beats arrhythmically somewhere down near the knuckles ... Smith is not going to ride out this tumultuous political moment artistically, as if she were a car parked under an overpass during a storm. She’s delivered a bracing if uneven novel, one that, like jazz, feels improvised ... tendentious at times, but it taps deeply into our contemporary unease. It’s always alive ... Smith embeds her politics in interlocking plotlines that flow like waking dreams, in melodies and countermelodies. Her gifts are such that she nearly pulls this awkward bird aloft ... Her novels are like Mike Leigh’s films or The Mekons’ albums. Some are better than others, but all are the product of a unique and hard-won vision; a vision that’s homely in the best sense of that word. You never doubt you’re in the presence of a serious artist, even when things are going pear-shaped ... mith’s vision isn’t fundamentally pessimistic...There’s too much squirming life in her fiction, slashes of cleansing light for those who seek it.
In the collage-like chapters that break up the novel’s overarching plot, Smith offers us the frenzied cacophony of the right-here, right-now, giving voice to social media companies...and internet trolls ... This all makes Spring sound deadly serious—and, in its moral and political vision, it can be. But such seriousness rubs against something lighter, brighter ... Spring...is also structurally playful and stylistically frisky ... Spring moves easily between the political and the aesthetic, the timely and the timeless ... [a] splendid new novel.
...there’s a sense in which the quartet is tending towards some sort of unified conclusion ... In Spring one of these sections, expressing the secret desires of social-media companies, is like Gertrude Stein rewritten by Twitter ... in these moments the novel is like a Modernist prose poem of the now. Smith has always been attuned to the hidden absurdities and comforts of language, and part of her attraction to puns is that they are, as Freud realised, always and inevitably meaningful ... Spring takes great delight in uncovering the linguistic objet trouvé of everyday life ... Against the backdrop of abuse and violent incarceration that is also documented in Spring, this playfulness might threaten to be flippant or twee, but only if it is read as seeking to offset rather than undermine the savageness of the horrors described elsewhere.
Smith is increasingly recognising the narrative possibilities of this new type of storytelling, finding deeper and more compelling ways of getting under the skin of her times ... While reading Spring, I became suddenly aware of the extraordinary meta-novel – the year – that the quartet will form once it’s complete, and how thrilling and important that book will be ... Now that we are past the halfway mark it’s possible to perceive the shape of the whole, to recognise quite how dazzling the interplay of ideas and images between the four books will be ... There’s so much more to say about this luminous, generous, hope-filled novel ... all of this rich material feels amplified by the echoes and resonances that thrum between Spring and its predecessors ... She’s lighting us a path out of the nightmarish now.
... both the most stark and the most hopeful of the series ... To read a book by Smith is to know that she will ask you to do some work, though that work will always be a pleasure and a bit of a game. She will require you to stitch together some of the storylines as she discards the notion of linear time; she will vary the form of the novel (here, including bits of a screenplay, lists, and Twitter rants); and she will have such fun with wordplay and puns that you can feel her pleasure as you read. You will be confused, at times, but the joy of reading Smith is that you know that many of the disparate pieces will make sense by the time the book is completed. Reading Smith’s work for a second time is a true joy, as the raw bits are now knitted together, a whole made out of parts, yet another incarnation of the 'unexpected afterlife,' the glimmer of hope and of spring.
... Smith spins a beguiling, faceted tale, stirring with underground resistance, ordinary folks doing extraordinary things in the name of morality ... The prose here is vintage Smith: slangy and acerbic but speckled like a quail’s egg with lyrical insights ... With its inventive twists, all-too-human cast and wrenching political reckoning, Spring ushers in a fresh season of Ali Smith’s genius.
... bursts with the bruised hope of redemption ... burns with moral urgency at the same time as feeling timeless and playful ... What has happened to Britain? It’s a question that echoes through the seasonal series and reaches a perfectly pitched hymn of fury in Spring ... Smith is such a good writer that it’s hard to stop quoting. What’s particularly impressive is the way Spring mixes polemic and plot, creating characters we care about and never losing its madcap momentum ... an astonishing accomplishment and a book for all seasons.
...this is an elastic retelling of Shakespeare’s Pericles, which is itself a self-conscious patchwork of other tales ... Smith finds delicious new tragic and comic moments everywhere ... There is no simple happy ending, but rather a kaleidoscopic cyclone of voices that just about come to a point of earthly peace, if not celestial redemption ... Despite the stark indictment of humanity’s evils that this bubbling, babbling brook of a book contains, the real story is the eternal, deep pulse of nature doing its thing, oblivious to our sordid ways. Nature, in Smith’s hands, is a strange sort of mother ... She tells stories in a voice you can’t help but listen to.
While Winter had an almost claustrophobic, insular feel, telling the story of internal familial dysfunction under one roof, Spring breaks out of this isolation to deliver a delayed wintertime tale of Christ-like redemption by stressing the interconnectedness of all people and things ... Spring, like much of Ali Smith’s work, is so full of... scintillating tangents and asides that a standard review could not possibly do justice ... a novel that by no means purports to heal us, but at least shake us out of ourselves so that we can try.
... though Smith is alert to the dull dishonesty of authority and its clerks, the novel’s title is not ironic ... li Smith is, I think, a life-enhancer, but you can’t be sure. You can’t really be sure of anything, can you? That’s the message that Shakespeare’s clowns so often deliver. Charlie Chaplin has a brief walk-on part in Spring.
...the novel gradually reveals its kernel, like a seed unfurling in darkness, to be one of hope ... Smith’s genius in these three books has been to use art and literature to navigate through the froth of the present moment with such a light touch that she rarely seems to lecture ... The details of everyday life for detainees, taken from news reports and anonymous testimony gathered by Smith, form the shocking, angry heart of the book ... Spring is often blunter and more explicit, then, more proselytising and polemical, than the playful, riddling Smith we’re used to ... This is a novel that contains multitudes, and the wonder is that Smith folds so much in, from visionary nature writing to Twitter obscenities, in prose that is so deceptively relaxed. Jokes detonate throughout, from the bleak to the whimsical.
Our present nightmare either bulges out of the main narrative like the proverbial sore thumb, or is served up in breathless, on-the-nose sections taken from the notebooks of a 12-year-old girl ... Perhaps future generations will find these summaries of our current woes more useful – but for now they’re too familiar. The plot, in contrast, suffers from feeling too unreal ... Smith has an impressive ability to skip backwards and forwards through time ... Florence’s persuasive powers are almost entirely unconvincing and she never feels true on the page ... Credit to Smith’s prescience in writing about a powerful child just before Greta Thunberg arrived on the scene. But what a shame she’s written such a patronising approximation of a 12-year-old. It’s a pity that Brit and Florence’s strand derails Richard’s – perhaps their chance meeting and everything that comes after is supposed to feel featherweight, but that doesn’t make all the flimsy whimsy easier to indulge ... It’s arguable that Smith has earned some forbearance. But would we forgive such obvious flaws in a less beloved writer? By the same token, I might perhaps have been easier on this book if it were a debut. There’s enough quality writing to have me applauding a fine talent – but not enough to call Spring a good book.
What fun the author has with all this – the postmodern games, the groan-tempting wordplay... the abysmal state of things, including and beyond the imagined individual lives and relationships. The collage continues to grow and change. You know when it will be set, next time out, but not what gifts the present will offer Ali Smith next.
Spring is (phew!) the most compelling and coherent of the three books ... Spring gives off more light than Autumn or Winter. There is an important reveal that suggests the novels may share a narrative arc. At last a shape begins to emerge ... Still, it’s puzzling why a writer so invested in storytelling as a theme should be so uninterested in storytelling as practice. The novel trundles to a forgettable end, its relationship with Shakespeare’s Pericles never really materialising ... It’s perfectly possible to share Smith’s politics, but question whether such a didactic book about the iniquities of our not-so-United Kingdom is likely to convert anyone new to her cause.
Autumn and Winter worked: the pieces fit. Spring’s pieces, however, feel like bits and bobs pulled out of Smith’s trunk of favorite props ... As bits and bobs go, they’re not bad. They’re Ali Smith bits and bobs. But they don’t come together to form an innovative novel, and Smith’s care in constructing them precludes the graceful chaos of an assemblage ... Had the Richard book been given more room to stretch its wings it might have worked. Sturdier threads connecting it to the Brit book would have helped, too ... the real problem with the Richard book is that its characters are a bit shopworn. Richard plays Smith’s Eternally Young but Thirsty for Enlightenment Male. Paddy and, later, Alda—and Florence, for that matter—play the Nurturing and Sage Females ... too prescriptive to be illuminating. Richard’s story has brilliant moments, but its somewhat patronizing, at times waggish tone eclipses Richard’s voice and diminishes the poignancy of his situation. Bound together with Brit’s book, his book is simply outdone, outshone.
Spring, though as full of Smith’s trademark puns as its companion volumes, is an altogether darker novel ... The tone is set by the opening three pages, a brilliantly menacing sequence of demands made by an unnamed collective voice ... The novel goes on to offer a powerful confrontation with the atrocities that have taken place, and continue to take place, on British soil ... Among living writers, Smith is almost unparalleled in her use of puns, but when they appear in the mouth of every character, they begin to lose their appeal.
...this dynamic novel captures the many turmoils of life in the contemporary U.K. through ecstatic language and indirect narrative collisions ... As was the case with Autumn and Winter, the novel’s setting is its foremost strength and increasingly enervating flaw, leading to writing that alternately astounds and exasperates ... a relevant description of the whole enterprise, a response for every season: 'Gimmicky, but impressive all the same.'