How to be Both (Paperback)
  • How to be Both (Paperback)

How to be Both (Paperback)

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Paperback 384 Pages
Published: 16/04/2015
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'I take my hat off to Ali Smith. Her writing lifts the soul' Evening Standard

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.


'Brims with palpable joy' Daily Telegraph

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

'A delight. A masterpiece. Magical' Sunday Times


Ali Smith's new novel, Companion piece, is available now.

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN: 9780141025209
Number of pages: 384
Weight: 260 g
Dimensions: 196 x 126 x 30 mm


Dizzyingly good and so clever that it makes you want to dance - New Statesman

A delight. A masterpiece. Magical. - Sunday Times

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

Exciting, full of joy and wryly funny... [Ali Smith is] one of the most inventive writers alive - Emerald Street

A remarkably easy and immensely enjoyable read... Ali Smith is a one-off. Her imagination and originality make her one of the most exciting novelists of her generation. Both George and Francesco touch the heart and linger in the mind long after the final page. - Daily Express

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

Rich, funny and moving. Smith's writing really catches fire - Financial Times

Dazzling - Independent

This warm, funny book deserves to be read at least one-and-a-half times - Honor Clerk, Spectator

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

Ms. Smith's writing is inventive and delighted. She cannot help being exuberant - New York Times

Inventive, playful, compassionate. An immensely enjoyable read - Daily Express

I was utterly transported by Ali Smith's How to Be Both, a novel built from two stories that speak across six centuries. I'm about to read it for the fourth time - Helen Macdonald, Irish Times

Smith is dazzling in her daring. Her inventive power pulls you through, gasping, to the final page - Observer

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

Smith's fervent, vital, incantatory prose is entirely her own . . . How to be both reads as if she has summoned words from some region of the unconscious and released them in a trance - Joanna Kavenna, Prospect

Utterly contemporary and vividly historical - Holly Williams, The Independent

Smith has created a stunning work that is as rewarding as it is challenging - The List

One of the things she does so well, and that is particularly evident in 'How to Be Both,' is the way she can create an extremely sophisticated, complex, multileveled novel that reads beautifully - Erica Wagner

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 21st-century frame and an exhortation to do the twist. - Sarah Churchwell, New Statesman Books of the Year 2014

A revelation. It blasts the doors open for the novel form and in a Woolf-like way makes all things possible. I imagine it will be one of those rare books that changes the way writers write novels - Jackie Kay, Observer

Ali Smith's novels soar higher every time and How to be both doesn't disappoint - Julie Myerson, Observer

Brilliant. No one combines experimentalism and soulfulness like Ali Smith - Craig Taylor, Observer

One of the most intelligent, inventive, downright impressive writers working anywhere in the world today. In Ali Smith we have a writer whose dazzling sophistication will surely be celebrated, studied and argues over hundreds of years after we're gone - Nick Barley, The Scotsman

Ali Smith is a master of language. Vigorous, vivid writing that is Ali Smith incarnate - Alice Thompson, Herald

Ingeniously conceived, gloriously inventive - NPR

Dizzyingly ambitious . . . endlessly artful, creating work that feels infinite in its scope and intimate at the same time. [A] swirling panoramic - Atlantic

Brilliant . . . the sort of death-defying storytelling acrobatics that don't seem entirely possible - Washington Post

Having read this now twice, in both directions so to speak, I've decided - and I do not write this flippantly - that Ali Smith is a genius - Susan McCallum, LA Review of Books

Approaches the world as only a novel can. The book moves not so much in a straight line as in a twisting helix pattern . . . delivers the heat of life and the return of beauty in the face of loss - Kenneth Miller, Everyday Ebook

A unique conversation between past and present - Milwaukee Journal

Wildly inventive . . . lyrical, fresh - Bustle Magazine

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“A bit mixed but very good overall”

Books which are written in an unconventional, experimental way are usually either brilliant or a load of unreadable nonsense. Frankly, I thought this had bits of both, but there was far more brilliance here. I enjoyed... More

Paperback edition
Helpful? Upvote 130

“Stunning, wise - one of Ali Smith's best”

Ali Smith is one of the most lauded and garlanded British authors working today, and this novel shows her at the height of her powers. Divided in half, and published roughly so that half of readers will read one side... More

Paperback edition
4 similar books recommended
Helpful? Upvote 118

“A novel of many layers”

Ali Smith is one of our most skilful writers, and my copy of 'How to be Both' says on the cover that it has been long-listed for the Booker Prize; since then, of course, it has made it on to the short list.... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 81

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