‘Spring’ by Ali Smith – A Slapdash Effort


Spring’ by Ali Smith   (2019) – 340 pages

‘Spring’ did not work for me at all. It has all the ingredients of an Ali Smith novel but does not meld into a coherent whole. It is a slapdash effort.

This novel did not work for me even though I certainly agree with Ali Smith on most of her opinions of Brexit and Donald Trump. Ali Smith and I would agree that something has gone terribly wrong with our societies, and that this wrongness is imbedded in our current online world.

‘Spring’ begins with a rant. While reading the first few pages of ‘Spring’, I almost gave up on the novel due to its incoherence. I actually wish I had quit the novel. However I did not have anything else pressing to read so I gave ‘Spring’ another try starting from the beginning again. Ultimately I made it through the entire novel.

There are two main strands of the plot in ‘Spring’ which are united in what I consider haphazard fashion. The first strand is about Richard Lease who is working on a film project about the weeks that the writer Katherine Mansfield and the poet Rainer Maria Rilke spent in the same Swiss town in 1922. Even though the two did not even meet each other in real life and were unaware of each other’s presence, the movie producer wants to turn it into a great love story.

In Smith’s previous novel ‘How to Be Both’, these obscure references to the artistic and literary past delighted me but here they seem almost gratuitous.

The second strand of ‘Spring’ is about Brittany Hall who works in an IRC, an Immigrant Removal Center. Conditions for the immigrants at this place are atrocious. The people locked in there are called “deets” for detainees. The place resembles a prison.

I did not know that now England had a problem of mistreating its new immigrants. I thought that only the United States was mistreating its immigrants.

We want you to know you have full access to your information – you and anyone who shadows you.”

One day Brittany hears about a schoolgirl named Florence who somehow got past security and has somehow shamed the director into cleaning all the toilets at the Center. I suppose that this young girl could count as an instance of the literary device magical realism, but it all seemed rather makeshift.

Soon Brittany, Florence, and another woman are off to Inverness in Scotland, and somehow they pick up Richard along the way. How this all happens did not make any sense at all to me. I doubt if it was supposed to make sense. I suppose the author meant this trip to Inverness to be a whimsical juxtaposition of the two plot strands but to me it just seemed absurd.

In baseball parlance, Ali Smith’s ‘How to Be Both’ is a home run, and her ‘Spring’ is a strike out.


Grade:   C


7 responses to this post.

  1. The UK has a deliberate “hostile environment” for asylum seekers/refugees/immigrants. Google “Windrush Scandal”. And Australia’s policy is even worse. Ever heard of Manus Island? It’s all shameful and abhorrent. As for this book, thanks for your honest review of it; I’m not in the least bit interested in reading Spring (nor her previous ones Autumn and Winter) and your thoughts on it have confirmed that it’s probably just as well I don’t want to read it. I’m not really an Ali Smith fan…

    Liked by 1 person


    • Hi Kim,
      I thought ‘How to be Both’ was excellent and ‘Autumn was OK, but for me ‘Spring’ fell flat. Thanks for the info on immigrants – I thought it was just a US Trump problem, but I suppose some fools in these other places are going Trumpy too.



  2. I’m fascinated by this response to the book (I’ve only read Autumn and liked it enough to read Winter but haven’t read it yet) because on the very same morning, in my inbox here’s this review from Becky at Becky’s Books: https://mybecky.blog/2019/05/25/spring-by-ali-smith/
    And both of you are my trusted reviewers!

    Liked by 1 person


    • Hi Lisa,
      One likes it, one does not. That does leave you in a bit of a quandary, doesn’t it? ‘How to be Both’ is a favorite of mine, but ‘Spring’ disappointed. Also ‘Spring’ isn’t very spring-like in its mood which is rather bleak.



  3. I tried How to be Both, and it was a DNF for me. Warned and cautioned by your review, I will defo give Spring a big fat miss.



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