Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Autumn by Ali Smith

Autumn. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. That's what it felt like for Keats in 1819.

How about Autumn 2016?

Daniel is a century old. Elisabeth, born in 1984, has her eye on the future. The United Kingdom is in pieces, 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.

Ali Smith's new novel is a meditation on a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive, on what richness and worth are, on what harvest means. This first in a seasonal quartet casts an eye over our own time. Who are we? What are we made of? Shakespearean jeu de'esprit, Keatsian melancholy, the sheer bright energy of 1960's Pop art: the centuries cast their eyes over our own history-making.

Here's where we're living. Here's time at its most contemporaneous and its most cyclic.

From the imagination of the peerless Ali Smith comes a shape-shifting series, wide-ranging in timescale and light-footed through histories, and a story about ageing and time and love and stories themselves.

Here comes Autumn.

I found this absolutely beautiful to read and I am excited that this is the first in a seasonal quartet. The language is poetic and lyrical and I loved every word.

The narrative moves seamlessly through time - moving back and forth from Elisabeth's present to her time as a child and considers her friendship with Daniel. We do see things from Daniel's perspective periodically, which did not always seem to make sense but this is a book that it is best to just go with the flow. Simply to immerse myself in the beauty of this book was a delightful experience akin to wallowing in the waves of a calm sea.

This is a novel which is extremely current. It is set in the UK following the Brexit referendum and the author has her ear very much to the ground in that she expresses how many of us feel. However, it is not a political book but one that considers issues of the present day.

If I had to pick one thing that I liked above all else in this book it would be the humour that is interwoven through the text. Ms. Shaw has a marvellous way of depicting bureaucracy to  demonstrate what nonsense it so often is. Elisabeth's experience in the post office was extremely amusing and her frustration was palpable.

It has been some years since I picked up one of Ali Smith's books but I will not be leaving it so long this time. I am very keen to read Winter, the next book in the quartet, and plan to do so very soon.

Have you read any novels by this author? I would love to hear your thoughts.

ISBN: 978-0241973318

Publisher:  Penguin

About the Author:

Ali Smith is a writer, born in Inverness, Scotland, to working-class parents. She was raised in a council house in Inverness and now lives in Cambridge. She studied at Aberdeen, and then at Cambridge, for a Ph.D. that was never finished. In a 2004 interview with writing magazine Mslexia, she talked briefly about the difficulty of becoming ill with chronic fatigue syndrome for a year and how it forced her to give up her job as a lecturer at University of Strathclyde to focus on what she really wanted to do: writing. She has been with her partner, Sarah Wood, for 17 years and dedicates all her books to her.

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