Book Review of Ali Smith's How to be both
Ali Smith's How to be both was fascinating and troubling. It is a story of two halves that can be read (and have actually been published in different orders). One story tells the tale of George, a 16 year old girl, who is coming to terms with the death of her mother. She becomes obsessed with renaissancea artist, Francesco del Coassa's painting of St. Vincent Ferrer. George and her mother had talked about the artist when her mother took her to see the frescos in Ferrara in Italy before she died. Caring for her younger brother, coping with her alcoholic father and experiencing something approaching first love are aspects of George's story,
The other tale is told by Francesco del Cossa, who has time-travelled from the 15th century to London and observes George studying his/her painting. We see Francesco's reflections about George. In addition s/he revisits his/her own life experiences, where themes such as gender identiy, sexuality, loyalty, status and wealth are explored. The writing is allegorical, but complicated to dissect. As a re-telling of what happened to Francesco it lacks the rawness of George's story and is perhaps more reflective in tone.
Book Discussion Questions on Ali Smith's How to be both
This is a challenging book so why not listen to this fascinating interview on How to be both by Ali Smith
Book Discussion Questions on Ali Smith's how to be both (if you haven't read the book!)
Personal Response to Ali Smith's how to be both
When trying to encapsulate what How to be both is about it feels like I have hardly even scratched the surface. This book can be peeled layer after layer. In this way it makes me think of T. S. Eliot. (It's difficult but worth it.) From the choice of the name George, to the lingering question of how much of Francesco's whole story is tied up with George's school project to the choice of syntax there is an awful lot to explore. i In order for me to really enjoy How to be both I need to now re-read and discuss it with friends and colleagues who are smarter than me. Any takers?