Winter is here

22 12 2018

Winter by Ali Smith


Winter? Bleak. Frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone, so the old song goes. The shortest days, the longest nights. The trees are bare and shivering. The summer’s leaves? Dead litter.

The world shrinks; the sap sinks.
But winter makes things visible. And if there’s ice, there’ll be fire.

In Ali Smith’s Winter, lifeforce matches up to the toughest of the seasons. In this second novel in her acclaimed Seasonal cycle, the follow-up to her sensational Autumn, Smith’s shape-shifting quartet of novels casts a merry eye over a bleak post-truth era with a story rooted in history, memory and warmth, its taproot deep in the evergreens: art, love, laughter.

It’s the season that teaches us survival.
Here comes Winter.

It’s a strong follow up to Autumn┬ábut lacks some of the force of the earlier novel. Many of the themes are sustained and there remains a clear polemical edge but lacks a certain something. Ideal Christmas fayre perhaps but possibly too much contemporary politics at the dinner table.

Nevertheless, looking forward to Spring…



Essex – it’s not the only way

15 12 2018

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

London, 1893. When Cora Seaborne’s controlling husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness. Along with her son Francis – a curious, obsessive boy – she leaves town for Essex, in the hope that fresh air and open space will provide refuge.

On arrival, rumours reach them that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming lives, has returned to the coastal parish of Aldwinter. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist with no patience for superstition, is enthralled, convinced that what the local people think is a magical beast may be a yet-undiscovered species. As she sets out on its trail, she is introduced to William Ransome, Aldwinter’s vicar, who is also deeply suspicious of the rumours, but thinks they are a distraction from true faith.

As he tries to calm his parishioners, Will and Cora strike up an intense relationship, and although they agree on absolutely nothing, they find themselves at once drawn together and torn apart, affecting each other in ways that surprise them both.

This won a whole bunch of awards I think and certainly has much going for it. It’s well written and does move along reasonably well with a decent element of mystery. However, the central relationship between Cora the widow and Will the Vicar really doesn’t feel wholly credible although it is true to say it surprises them both. Not a bad yarn but ultimately somewhat unsatisfying.


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