Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Prize Winning Fiction
Prize Winning Fiction

2015 Baileys Prize Winner

How To Be Both by Ali Smith

Title: How to be Both

Publisher: Penguin

Length: 372 pages

About: A dual narrative – a troubled teenager and a Renaissance painter.

Style/Voice: First person- two narratives printed randomly.

Where: Italy and England

When: Renaissance Italy and contemporary England.

 

Publisher’s synopsis:

The story is told from two perspectives: those of George, a pedantic 16-year-old girl living in contemporary Cambridge, and Francesco del Cossa, an Italian renaissance artist responsible for painting a series of frescoes in the 'Hall of the Months' at the Palazzo Schifanoia (translated as the 'Palace of Not Being Bored' in the novel) in Ferrara, Italy. Two versions of the book were published simultaneously; one in which George's story appears first, the other in which Francesco's comes first.

 

Extract: It is like everything is in layers. Things happen right at the front of the pictures and at the same time they continue happening, both separately and connectedly, behind, and behind that, and again behind that, like you can see in perspective, for miles. Then there are the separate details, like that man with the duck. They’re also happening on their own terms. The picture makes you look at both – the close-up happenings and the bigger picture. Looking at the man with the duck is like seeing how everyday and how almost comic cruelty is. The cruelty happens in among everything else happening. It is an amazing way to show how ordinary cruelty really is. (p53 in version starting with George’s story)

 

Reviews:

Good:  How to be Both brims with palpable joy, not only at language, literature, and art’s transformative power, but at the messy business of being human, of wanting to be more than one kind of person at once. The possibilities unleashed by the desire to be neither one thing nor the other means that one may ever and always strive to be both. With great subtlety and inventiveness, Smith continues to expand the boundaries of the novel. Patrick Flanery Daily Telegraph 2014.

 

Not so good:  The meandering aspect of the second tale and its seemingly slapdash effect impeded my fun, despite the isolated moments of quotable and perfect thought-making that leap out from the sprightly pages. Smith’s latest teaches one how to be both exhilarated and exhausted..Goodreads Blog

 

About the author: Ali Smith  is a writer, born in 1962 in Inverness, Scotland, to working-class parents. She was raised in a council house in Inverness and now lives in Cambridge. She studied at Aberdeen, and then at Cambridge, for a Ph.D. that was never finished. In a 2004 interview with writing magazine Mslexia, she talked briefly about the difficulty of becoming ill with chronic fatigue syndrome for a year and how it forced her to give up her job as a lecturer at University of Strathclyde to focus on what she really wanted to do: writing. Openly gay, she has been with her partner Sarah Wood for 17 years and dedicates all her books to her.

 

Ratings

Adventure

5

Filmability

7

Historical

9

Humorous

3

Intellectuality

8

Life-changing

7

Page turner

5

Readability

4

Romance

6

 

Age : 15

  •  
 

 

Novels and short stories by same author:

 

Adaptations:

None to date

2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner

It's a massive day in arts and journalism because the 100th annual Pulitzer Prize winners were just announced, and there's a big surprise. 2015's best artistic and nonfiction writing across 21 categories were recognized during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York City. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Hebert Bayward Swope, a reporter for The New York World, in 1916. (And if you're as big a fan of Newsies as I am, that paper should ring a bell, but try to think of it more positively.)

The major prize for book nerds, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press), a legitimate surprise, if you've been paying attention to the book nerd and industry buzz. The feeling around the prize in the last few months would have you putting all your hard-earned cash down on A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara to take home the award, but that's why you should never gamble. Viet Thanh Nguyen is no less deserving, and moreover, it's his debut novel, which makes it such a wonderful win.

Extract from New York Times to view full article...

Click here

 

Print Print | Sitemap Recommend this page Recommend this page
© Prize Winning Fiction