Unpredictable, unconventional and unputdownable, Ali plays with genre, time and reader expectations to provide us with a philosophical and experimental novel that plays on the mind long after turning the last page. Chair of judges for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction this year Shami Chakrabarti commented –
“I think she is a literary genius [..] I haven’t felt that way about reading since I was doing my English A-levels. It reminded me of what it felt like reading Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, all of the greats… that this is not a good book, this is a great book, and people are going to be reading it long after I’m dead.”
How to be Both introduces us to both George – a 16 year old coming to terms with life after the death of her mother – and the disembodied Francesco Del Cossa – a Renaissance painter who reminisces on his life. Intelligent and deep in its exploration of the concept of identity and perception, the story is warmly told in a manner that allows readers to engage with the characters as well as the concepts.
Interestingly, two versions of the story have been printed so that the reader may start the story either with George or Francesco depending on which copy they get. In this audio extract Ali Smith reads us both opening chapters, bringing life to a recounted conversation between George and her mother and Francesco’s first appearance in an art gallery.
Please note: This audio extract contains strong language.