Following her Seasonal Quartet, Ali Smith again lights a way for us through the nightmarish now with a novel grounded both in the contemporary era and in the uncannily familiar era of the Black Plague.
It is remarkable to be alive at the same time as Scottish writer Ali Smith. No one else, I would argue, captures our ongoing contemporary nightmare in a manner that is both expansively imaginative and the perfect mirror of its abrupt absurdity ... Smith’s books often force one to think along such streams of consciousness before breaking the wave with a swell of emotion. Leaping from deep investigations of words and ideas to cultural references as lofty as Keats and as basic as Paul McCartney’s Wings, Smith is intellectually rigorous yet democratic, warm and — crucially — playful ... recognizing the capacity of any person or thing to become one’s companion, she draws from her well of wit and empathy to assemble a novel both enigmatic and inviting, begging to be read and reread ... With its sweeping and incisive vision, its proof that you can trap lightning in a bottle, Companion Piece shares the best qualities with the quartet to which it plays companion, offering a clever, erudite and humane portrait of our intense contemporary moment. Leaping from mythology to etymology, history to literature, she also makes the granular elements of daily movement the stuff of life-sustaining art. She shows, again, what exceptional fiction can do in troubled times that nothing else can.
... superb ... a lock, crafted by a smith, that is, by A. Smith, demanding in the engagement it requires, and rewarding of that engagement, as one picks away at the words she has used to build it ... one of the breathtakingly radical passages that flash so brightly in this radical book.
In her latest novel, wordsmith nonpareil Ali Smith once again shows herself to be a master of forging inventive connections. Companion Piece helps us see our world in a different light by finding points of contact between two plagues and two female artists, five centuries apart ... ver intent on expanding our understanding of others and the world we share, Smith's work is brainy and moving, thoughtful and playful — and never irrelevant ... is, among other things, a passionate paean to books ... One of Smith's great gifts as a writer is verbal playfulness — a joy of lex — even in dark times ... By exploring binaries such as imagination versus reality, surface versus depth, real versus fake, and stories versus lies — with their often blurred boundaries — Companion Piece challenges readers to embrace the indeterminate. Smith, on fire, welds so many elements into this short novel — including Sandy's dreams and childhood memories and the terrible ordeals of a talented, steely 16th century waif — that the result is as intricate as that artisanal lock.