Title: Spring (Seasonal #3)
Writer: Ali Smith
Publishing House: Hamish Hamilton
Date of Publication: March 28th 2019
Rating: 5 stars
‘’None of it touches me. It’s nothing but water and dust. You’re nothing but bonedust and water. Good. More useful to me in the end.
I’m the child who’s been buried in leaves. The leaves rot down: here I am.’’
Four people meet in Scotland under peculiar circumstances. An elderly director who has lost his heart, a troubled young woman, an enigmatic librarian/canteen-keeper and an extraordinary 12-year-old girl searching for her mother. How can one person alter the lives of many? How can they save them? And how do we repay the help we have received? There are no easy answers to these questions. But we can read this book and try to understand.
‘’February. The first bee hits the window glass.
The light starts to push back, stark in the cold. But birdsong rounds the day, the first and last thing as the light comes and goes.
Even in the dark the air tastes different. In the light from the streetlight the branches of the bare trees are lit with rain. Something has changed. No matter how cold it is that rain is not winter rain any more.
The days lengthen.
That’s where the word Lent comes from’’
Richard, Florence, Brit and Alda find themselves in the setting of a contemporary Pericles, a tragedy enriched with the symbolism of the Spring, the rebirth and the rejuvenation of Hope. But is there any Hope, really? In stark and lyrical language, with Scotland at its heart, the novel is a raw commentary on the immigration crisis and Brexit, the daily life that has to go on in an environment of tension and uncertainty. But I’m not here to talk about politics. I never discuss such issues online, among absolute strangers. My opinions are my own and nobody’s business. I am interested in human relationships, this is what I always look for in a novel and Ali Smith excels in that field. With Florence as our mysterious guide and the sad voice of Richard, we become a part of a story about loss, reconciliation with the past, surviving a threatening present that is draining, justice and dignity.
‘’If you rise at dawn in a clear sky, and during the month of March, they say you can catch a bag of air so intoxicated with the essence of spring that when it is distilled and prepared, it will produce an oil of gold, remedy enough to heal all ointments.’’
It’s not just the story that makes Spring special but also the beautiful tidbits that elevate the novel. The beautiful character of Paddy, the enticing, cryptic Alda, the wisdom of Florence. The harrowing descriptions of the Troubles, the beautiful homage to Katherine Mansfield and Rainer Maria Rilke. The poignant observations on the absurd fashion and worry that every word we use may end up being offensive as dictated by the Twitter mob that launches crusades, hidden behind a screen and a (probably) dirty keyboard. The Highland traditions, the scenes from Candlemass, the story of St Brigid, the awakening of March, the dance of the Maidens, the echoes of the Jacobite Rising.
I can only imagine the perfection that Summer and Autumn are going to be…
‘’What’s under your road surface now?
What’s under your house’s foundations?
What’s warping your doors?
What’s giving your world the fresh colours?
What’s the key to the song of the bird? What’s forming the beak in the egg?
What’s sending the thinnest of green shoots through that rock so the rock starts to split?’’