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Autumn by Ali Smith


by Ali Smith

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Seasonal Quartet (1)

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7996017,201 (3.87)208



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Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
I enjoyed reading this novel about Autumn, a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. In Ali Smith's novel 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 continue to parade on their own way.

The novel proceeds with flashbacks interspersed with the present rather than in a consecutive, chronological narrative. Elisabeth ruminates on her youth and moments earlier in her life that formed her relationship with Daniel. Time becomes a central aspect of the story as highlighted by the following quote:
“Time travel is real. We do it all the time. Moment to moment, minute to minute.” (p. 175) Of course this is a metaphorical statement with the travel occurring in our mind's eye.

The novel's structure might be compared to a collage and thus similar to the art of Pauline Boty, a founder of the British Pop art movement who is a character in the book. This approach is highlighted by the vagaries of Elisabeth's memory; while there is also a frequent use of contrast as in the moment when immediately following a difficult situation for Elisabeth the narrative shifts to Daniel asleep in his room (p 111).

The story opens with a reference to Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, and then there’s a longer reference to a divided country filled with polarities: “All across the country, people felt legitimized. All across the country, people felt bereaved and shocked”? (p. 60) This is a reference to the impact of the Brexit vote and provides a contemporary context for the novel. The novel suggests a certain view of this event when Daniel tells Elisabeth, “So, always try to welcome people into the home of your story.” (p. 119). Perhaps our stories don’t belong to us alone? This can be seen as a call by the author for inclusion and diversity rather than building fences and keeping people out.

Smith alludes to and mentions many other authors and literary works, including William Shakespeare, John Keats, James Joyce, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell. Overall this was a meditation on the meaning of richness and harvest and worth. Autumn is the first installment of Ali Smith’s Seasonal quartet, and shines a light 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. Wide-ranging in time-scale and light-footed through histories, Autumn is an beautiful story about aging and time and love—and stories themselves. ( )
  jwhenderson | Mar 14, 2019 |
Outstanding. This is modern literary fiction at its finest. Urgent, funny, current, literary, with the added bonus of using a large enough font to make reading super-comfortable. And how could I not love a novel where one of the main characters begins every conversation with, "What are you reading?"

I don't know where Ms. Smith is going with this proposed quartet of novels, but I am already excited about reading the next one, and the next one, and the next one. ( )
  asxz | Mar 13, 2019 |
I have somewhat mixed feelings about this book. For starters, the prose is amazing although I expected nothing less after reading How To Be Both. This book has anything but a linear plot, and much of it rested upon things I knew nothing about such as the Scandal of '63. I can't help but feel that if I had known about this history or perhaps just knew a bit more about literature and art in general, I would have understood and appreciated the book much more. As it was, I adored the characters - some of whom practically leaped off the page - and the descriptions. The almost surrealist scenes of dealing with bureaucracy were fun, if of course a bit odd, still at a point where I wasn't sure what was going on in this novel. But the end becomes clearer. Keep reading and although you might get a little stuck on what exactly Smith is talking about, you will still get what she means. ( )
  CaptainBookamir | Mar 11, 2019 |
The relationship between Daniel Gluck and Elisabeth Demand- it is love, but not physical and thank god as Daniel is 69 years older than Elisabeth. They discuss art, books and politics. Actually the book is famous because it is the first book to cover brexit. But, Ali Smith is not for everyone and I am one of those people. She writes "Recollect her. Affect her. Neglect her. Lie detector. Film projector. Director. Collector. Objector." And I go "No. No. No. Noo...." I do not like this hamlet like approach to novels. But reviews are amazing on this book. This book was selected as one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2017. I might be missing the point. But, not for me.. ( )
  soontobefree | Mar 11, 2019 |
I get it!!! I finally get all of the hype for this book. I really didn't think I was going to be a card-carrying member of the Ali Smith fan club. Sign me up!!! I love her. This book was so beautifully written with a cast of wonderful characters. I felt the Brexit issue was handled with subtlely. Great book! While I don't love it as much as Lincoln in the Bardo, I will not be disappointed if it wins the Booker Prize this year! ( )
  tntbeckyford | Feb 16, 2019 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Smith, Aliprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Grove, MelodyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hockney, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kustodiev, Boris MichaylovichCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Munday, OliverCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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“Spring come to you at the farthest,
In the very end of harvest!
William Shakespeare
At current rates of soil erosion, Britain has just 100 harvests left.
Guardian, 20 July 2016
Green as the grass we lay in corn, in sunlight
Ossie Clark
If I am destined to be happy with you here – how short is the longest Life.
John Keats
Gently disintegrate me
WS Graham
For Gilli Bush-Bailey
see you next week

and for Sarah Margaret
Hardy perennial Wood
First words
It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times. Again.
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Book description
Daniel Gluck, a 101-year-old former songwriter, lies asleep and dreaming in his care home. He is regularly visited by 32-year-old Elisabeth Demand, who had been his next door neighbour as a young child. Her mother had disapproved of their early friendship, based on her belief that Daniel was gay, but Elisabeth had nevertheless formed a close bond with him and been inspired by his descriptions of works of art. As a consequence of his influence on her, Elisabeth is now a junior arts lecturer at a London university. A major character in the novel is the long-dead '60s pop artist, Pauline Boty,[6] the subject of Elisabeth's graduate school thesis. The story largely alternates between Daniel's prolonged dreams as he edges closer to death, and Elisabeth's recollections of the origins of their friendship and its repercussions.
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MAN BOOKER PRIZE FINALIST Long-listed for the Gordon Burn Prize One of the?New York Times ?10 Best Books of the Year?A Washington Post Notable Book?One of the Best Books of the Year: NPR, Dwight Garner/The New York Times , Martha Kearney/The Guardian , Slate , Chicago Tribune ,?Southern Living , Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ,?The Morning News , Kirkus Reviews? 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. Wide-ranging in time-scale and light-footed through histories, Autumn is an unforgettable story about aging and time and love-and stories themselves.… (more)

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