Tom Williams

Blast from the Past

How to be Both

By

Hamish Hamilton 372pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

In How to be both, the adolescent George comments, ‘if things really did happen simultaneously it’d be like reading a book but one in which all the lines of the text have been overprinted, like each page is actually two pages but with one superimposed on the other to make it unreadable.’ One wonders if Ali Smith ever quietly suggested this design to her publishers. She has crafted her own – legible – impression of time’s malleability by publishing two versions of How to be both. In one, the first half is narrated by Francesco del Cossa, the 15th-century Italian artist, while the second half concerns George, a girl living in modern-day Cambridge. In the other, the order of these two narratives is switched. As first-time readers, we must choose one way or the other.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Jane Ridley writes on Who’s In, Who’s Out: The Journals of Kenneth Rose, edited by D R Thorpe ,
    • 'Lucian Freud was never short of confidence. In the 1990s he painted a small head of an especially rich individual… ,
    • Robin Simon's review of Lucian Freud, edited by Martin Gayford and David Dawson ,
    • 'Lenin regularly communicated with his agents in Russia by postcard and Stalin sent girlfriends cards depicting ero… ,
    • RT : Could any book publishing people share with me their route into publishing roles for a sixth former I am working wi… ,
    • Donald Rayfield reviews Greetings From the Barricades: Revolutionary Postcards in Imperial Russia by Tobie Maythew ,
    • 'Citadel of the Saxons manages to turn the slim pickings of the surviving evidence into something like a consistent… ,