Spring is the third instalment of Ali Smith’s Brexit-inflected “seasonal quartet”. The first, Autumn, appeared in October 2016, a mere four months after the referendum; Spring’s publication date is the day before the UK was originally due to leave the EU. Each novel introduces a new set of characters, but all three portray a present-day Britain suffering from austerity, bureaucracy, climate change, capitalism, technology and xenophobia. All three also travel backwards and forwards throughout the 20th century, creating a patchwork of individual and cultural memory and forgetfulness that sets linear time against cyclical time.


Autumn and Winter shared a certain optimism familiar from Smith’s earlier works: a belief that humans can change, that love in its various forms will flourish even in the grimmest circumstances, that accidents are more often felicitous than catastrophic. Spring, though as full of Smith’s trademark puns as its companion volumes, is an altogether darker novel; as it obliquely reminds us, we’ve known for almost a century that April can be the cruellest month. The tone is set by the opening three pages, a brilliantly menacing sequence of demands made by an unnamed collective voice: “What we need is to say thinking is elite knowledge is elite… We need all that patriotic stuff… we want fury we want outrage we want words at their most emotive antisemite is good nazi is great paedo will really do it perverted foreigner illegal.” The novel goes on to offer a powerful confrontation with the atrocities that have taken place, and continue to take place, on British soil. – (New Statesmen review).

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