From the Back Cover
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.
I knew basically nothing going into AUTUMN, the first in Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet, but I was pleasantly surprised by the story! It follows two characters on two different time frames, the ’90s when young Elizabeth and Daniel are neighbors, spending their afternoons together, and present day, with thirty-something Elizabeth pretending to be Daniel’s daughter in order to visit him in a care center.
AUTUMN is really the story of Elizabeth and Daniel’s relationship, the influence he had on her childhood, and their differences growing up and living in very different times. But it’s also about their similarities, and that’s what makes this story feel so wholesome! AUTUMN is a short book, and the quickness of the prose makes it seem even shorter, but even with the little time I spent with Elizabeth and Daniel, I am still thinking about them days later.
“I’m tired of the news. I’m tired of the way it makes things spectacular that aren’t, and deals so simplistically with what’s truly appalling.”
I thoroughly enjoyed AUTUMN’s narration and prose, but it did take some getting used to and I can see some readers struggling with the disjointed, somewhat-chaotic narrative structure. Smith’s prose is incredibly sparse, and the story is all over the place but it works in the best possible way. If you can get through the spottiness, there is so much to appreciate.
“She likes to read, she reads all the time, and she prefers to be reading several things at once, she says it gives endless perspective and dimension.”
Because AUTUMN has been hailed as the first post-Brexit novel, I was expecting it to be more doom-and-gloom, but I found it quite the opposite. AUTUMN is heartwarming, hopeful, and, at times, hilarious–Elizabeth’s passport application process had me cackling. AUTUMN is profound, timely, and highly readable. I am beyond excited to continue with Smith’s Seasonal Quartet.