In a feat of supreme good timing, our first online shelf-talker took out the Bailey’s Prize today! How to be Both by Ali Smith is that rare literary novel that is also a work of consummate showmanship. The book tells the story of George, a precocious British teenager, whose mother is killed in a suspicious accident. Flitting seamlessly between the years before and after her mother’s death, Smith’s fluid narrative is balanced by the electric wit of her prose. As George delves deeper into her mother’s past, her own tale intersects with that of a long-dead Italian fresco painter, and the seemingly unrelated narratives make for an intricate and original meditation on love, loss, and creativity.
Smith is a bold and inventive writer, and How to be Both demonstrates her imagination in full force. Make sure to check out the other nominated titles for this year’s Bailey’s Prize: it’s consistently one of the most interesting and diverse shortlists, and has turned up some of our longstanding staff favourites.