I actually read Ali Smith’s How to be Both a few weeks ago now, but as often happens, life got in the way and I’m only now, two days before the winner of the 2015 Baileys Women’s prize for Fiction is announced, getting around to reviewing it.
Shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize and winner of both the 2014 Goldsmiths Prize and the Novel Award in the 2014 Costa Book Awards, How to be Both is no stranger to an accolade or two, neither is its author, Scottish writer Ali Smith.
The book is available in two versions – mine began with teenager George, who is grieving after the sudden death of her mother, before moving to the story of a fifteenth century painter, Francesco del Cossa who features in the first half of the novel when George’s mother takes her on a spontaneous visit to a palazzo in Italy to see a Renaissance fresco, part of which was painted by him.
An original and unusual story of two parts, How to be Both is the antithesis of an easy read but it certainly shows off Smith’s competence as a writer. Many readers are backing it to win this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and with just two days until the winner is announced, we don’t have long until we find out.