How to be Both

How to be Both

3.66 (19,389 ratings by Goodreads)
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How to be both is the dazzling new novel by Ali Smith.


Passionate, compassionate, vitally inventive and scrupulously playful, Ali Smith's novels are like nothing else.

How to be both is a novel all about art's versatility. Borrowing from painting's fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it's a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There's a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There's the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real - and all life's givens get given a second chance.

'Smith can make anything happen, which is why she is one of our most exciting writers today' Daily Telegraph

'She's a genius, genuinely modern in the heroic, glorious sense' Alain de Botton

'I take my hat off to Ali Smith. Her writing lifts the soul' Evening Standard

Ali Smith was born in Inverness in 1962 and lives in Cambridge. She is the author of Artful, There but for the, Free Love, Like, Hotel World, Other Stories and Other Stories, The Whole Story and Other Stories, The Accidental, Girl Meets Boy and The First Person and Other Stories.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 154 x 234 x 29mm | 501g
  • Hamish Hamilton Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Airside edition.
  • 0241146828
  • 9780241146828
  • 37,831

Review quote

Inventive, playful, compassionate. An immensely enjoyable read. * Daily Express * How to be both celebrates the gift of surprise. . . . I found myself smiling again and again, caught unawares by how well and how beautifully Smith ties together so many seemingly disparate elements. . . . The past and present are connected through an Internet search, themes of death and memory are explored, pop culture and high art swirl together, and careful research allows the line between fiction and history to blur -- Betty Scott * Bookslut * An entirely delightful and moving story with characters so endearing and human that you want to remark, as Francesco's mother does about her daughter's drawing, 'It's very good. Well seen.'. . . When you reach the end of this playful and wise novel, you want to turn to the beginning and read it again to piece together its mysteries and keep both halves simultaneously in mind. Reading Ali Smith's How to Be Both is like finishing a cake and having another delicious one still before you to enjoy * The Dallas Morning News * A synthesis of questions long contemplated by an extraordinarily thoughtful author, who succeeds quite well in implanting those questions into well-drawn, memorable people * The New York Times * Captivating. . . . Your experience of the novel will be different depending on which story you start with. But either way, the revelations and conclusions will be the same. How to Be Both indeed works both ways, demonstrating not only the power of art itself but also the mastery of Smith's prose * San Francisco Chronicle * Many of this novel's great joys derive from Smith's ability to tie together the two seemingly disparate stories in wonderful and unexpected ways. It's a meditative book, steeped in the voices of these characters. . . . Ali Smith is a master storyteller, and How to Be Both is a charming and erudite novel that can quite literally make us rethink the way we read -- Andrew Ervin * The Philadelphia Inquirer * I've decided - and I do not write this flippantly - that Ali Smith is a genius * LA Review of Books * Two of the most rewarding reads of the year were wrapped up in one book: Ali Smith's How to Be Both (Hamish Hamilton), a novel in two sections published to be read in either order. Bringing together the effervescent narratives of an Italian Renaissance fresco painter and a modern teenager, the book explored love, art and possibility with an extraordinary freshness that won it a Booker shortlisting and the Goldsmiths prize for originality. * Guardian * Ali Smith's novels soar higher every time and How to be both doesn't disappoint -- Julie Myerson * Observer * Dizzingly good and so clever that it makes you want to dance * New Statesman * Brilliant. No one combines experimentalism and soulfulness like Ali Smith -- Craig Taylor * Observer Books of the Year * A marvellous exploration of what it means to look, then look again. Spiralling and twisting stories suggest the ways in which we can transcend walls and barriers - not only between people but between emotions, art forms and historical periods. It is a jeu d'esprit about a girl coming of age and coming to terms with her mother's death, a ghosting of a Renaissance fresco painter in a twenty-first-century frame and an exhortation to do the twist -- Sarah Churchwell * New Statesman Books of the Year 2014 * Smith is the brightest spark in a recent explosion of female novelists taking dizzying risks with form and voice . . . most contemporary male authors feel Jurassic by comparison. * Metro * Ali Smith is a one-off. Her imagination and originality make her one of the most exciting novelists of her generation and for such a profound book this is a remarkably easy and immensely enjoyable read. Both George and Francesco touch the heart and their thoughts and ideas linger on in the mind long after the final page. * Daily Express * One of the most inventive writers alive and when she starts to have fun with language, and even the idea of what a book should be, the result is exciting, full of joy and wryly funny * Emerald Street * Vital * Prospect * Utterly contemporary and vividly historical -- Holly Williams * The Independent * This warm, funny, subtle, layered, intelligent book deserves to be read at least one-and-a-half times -- Honor Clerk * Spectator * Stunning * The List * Dazzling * Independent * Dealing with grief, obsession, sexuality and the versatility of art itself, Smith has created a stunning work that is as rewarding as it is challenging * The List * Ali Smith is an unrepentant stylist...How to be both reads as if she has summoned words from some region of the unconscious and released them in a trance...Smith's fervent, vital, incantatory prose is entirely her own -- Joanna Kavenna * Prospect * How to be both is a demanding, restless, brain-ache of a book that is simultaneously a delight and a challenge...What happens here is that you have to let go and revel in life's poetry. The effect is magical * Sunday Times * Radical, dazzling . . . Those writers making doomy predictions about the death of the novel should read Smith's re-imagined novel/s, and take note of the life it contains * Independent * Magical * Sunday Times *
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About Ali Smith

Ali Smith was born in Inverness in 1962. She is the author of Spring, Winter, Autumn, Public library and other stories, How to be both, Shire, Artful, There but for the, The first person and other stories, Girl Meets Boy, The Accidental, The whole story and other stories, Hotel World, Other stories and other stories, Like and Free Love. Hotel World was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize. The Accidental was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize. How to be both won the Bailey's Prize, the Goldsmiths Prize and the Costa Novel of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Autumn was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017 and Winter was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize 2018. Ali Smith lives in Cambridge.
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Rating details

19,389 ratings
3.66 out of 5 stars
5 25% (4,920)
4 35% (6,750)
3 25% (4,835)
2 10% (1,931)
1 5% (953)
Book ratings by Goodreads
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