MAN BOOKER PRIZE FINALIST • The first novel in Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet is an unforgettable story about aging and time and love—and stories themselves.
Autumn. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Two old friends—Daniel, a centenarian, and Elisabeth, born in 1984—look to both the future and the past as the United Kingdom stands divided by a historic, once-in-a-generation summer. Love is won, love is lost. Hope is hand-in-hand with hopelessness. The seasons roll round, as ever.
A luminous meditation on the meaning of richness and harvest and worth, Autumn is the first installment of Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet, and it casts an eye over our own time: Who are we? What are we made of? Shakespearean jeu d’esprit, Keatsian melancholy, the sheer bright energy of 1960s pop art. Autumn is wide-ranging in time-scale and light-footed through histories.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
There is strange magic in Ali Smith’s story of an unlikely friendship—and the bitter aftermath of Brexit. Time seemed to warp whenever we picked up Autumn, which is bursting with Smith’s dazzling wordplay and her faith in humanity. Elisabeth Demand first meets Daniel Gluck when she’s a young student tasked with writing a profile of a neighbor. Separated by many decades but united in their curiousity and passion for art, the two develop a lifelong connection. Smith has written an extraordinarily beautiful story that perfectly encapsulates the gift of wonder and the tragedy of societies that give up on it.
This splendid free-form novel the first in a seasonally themed tetralogy chronicles the last days of a lifelong friendship between Elisabeth, a British university lecturer in London, and her former neighbor, a centenarian named Daniel. Opening with an oblique, dreamy prologue about mortality, the novel proper sets itself against this past summer's historic Brexit vote, intermittently flashing back to the early years of Elisabeth and Daniel's relationship. Though there are a few relevant subplots, including Elisabeth's nightmarish attempt to procure a new passport, as well as her fascination with the painter Pauline Boty, the general plot is appropriately shapeless, reflecting the character's discombobulated psyche. Smith (How to Be Both) deftly juxtaposes her protagonists' physical and emotional states in the past and present, tracking Elisabeth's path from precocity to disillusionment. Eschewing traditional structure and punctuation, the novel charts a wild course through uncertain terrain, an approach that excites and surprises in equal turn. Seen through Elisabeth's eyes, Daniel's deterioration is particularly affecting. Smith, always one to take risks, sees all of them pay off yet again.
What was that?
This book was not as advertised. Beautiful choice of words but poorly put together. In the end, the book left me with more questions rather then answers.