The one I’m still thinking about: the prize winning book in two halves How to be both by Ali Smith

Book Reviews, Recommended, Writing


George’s mum has died, and she’s trying to live life in that reality, balancing her little brother, passionate new friend, father, school and the memories of her mother that portray a complex picture of a person. These tell of the time her mother flew her and her brother to Italy to look at a particular figure fresco in a house in Italy. And she has one question that she keeps asking: can you remember when you’re dead?

Franchescho is dead, but is remembering. An artist responsible for beautiful artwork and frescos on the inside of an Italian house, memories from life, family and love overwhelm the artist as they look upon an unfamiliar world. An unfamiliar world where a teenage girl is collecting pictures of a dead woman.

This book and it’s two completely distinct sections is meant to represent a fresco: two separate pieces set opposite one another. Ready to compare and contrast. A technique that works just ridiculously well. Because you are not here presented only with the meaning, depth and questions of two separate stories (which would have been enough, so deep and intriguing are they both) but challenged again. What can they mean when set against each other?