Spring by Ali Smith
My Rating: 5/5 stars
The short synopsis of Spring describes spring (whether the book or the season) as “the great connective” and as such the novel brings together the lives of three unlikely people: a grieving director, an immigration custody officer, and a young schoolgirl. As the story is told through each of their perspectives the reader is introduced to the intricacies of their lives and the presence of today’s most pressing challenges. As their lives intersect the reader is exposed to the impact of these challenges on not just individuals but a nation.
Ali Smith’s novel Spring is the third book in a four-part seasonal series with three other novels titled Autumn, Winter, and Summer. The series explores a post-Brexit United Kingdom and highlights some of the most pressing, controversial, and painful realities of the nation through their characters. I studied abroad during the Spring 2022 semester and while at a bookstore I picked up Smith’s Spring. I have yet to read the other novels in Smith’s series, but even without this reference I was frozen with interest and continuously taken aback with emotion while reading the novel. While seemingly simple in plot and fast to read, it is a novel you will want to read multiple times given the depth of the story. The narrative is similar to stream-of-consciousness mixed with poetry and in conjunction with the plot, the story struck me like a force. The narrative requires more from the reader, acting almost as a puzzle that boldens the hidden context in our everyday lives to the turmoil and complex socio-political landscape. As well, the gradual reveal of the plot allows the reader to assume the role of the characters as they, too, approach their journey blindly.
Spring focuses on immigration in the United Kingdom and while I lack the personal connection to the geographic and political context I found it a useful tool to begin understanding the current political climate in the United Kingdom. This was not just demonstrated with the physical aspects of the plot – one character’s attempted suicide, the viewpoints and decisions of the immigration officer, and the efforts of a young child to reach her mother – but also the subtext of the characters actions. I also found a lot of the commentary similar to discussions within the United States which proved revealing to the nature of social and political narratives today. Smith’s Spring is daring and tragic and truthful and it is a statement and looking-glass into not just the United Kingdom’s current state of the nation but can draw parallels to the current state of the world.