Autumn by Ali Smith is the first in a four part series and it begins wonderfully with: “It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times.” For the first novel I am aware of to describe post Brexit feelings in the UK :”All across the country, people felt it was the wrong thing. All across the country, people felt it was the right thing, I couldn’t imagine a more poignant and reflective start.
We meet Daniel Gluck who seems to be dreaming but we later learn he is nearing the end of his life (“the increased sleep period happens when people are close to death“) who befriends the protagonist, Elisabeth, when she was a child teaching her about art, reading and inadvertently feminism.
I have to confess the layers of this story were a bit lost on me as I felt that it was slightly underdeveloped however there are wonderful elements of the book around how Daniel’s relationship with Elisabeth develops (I particularly enjoyed the game of Bagatelle and how he impliedly teaches her to challenge pre conceived notions of truth) although I was never sure how it all linked into a coherent story.
Elisabeth never lets us in on her views of her mothers relationship with a woman, her views on Brexit and of course how she feels about Daniel’s inevitable demise. This was clearly intentional by Smith in choosing to adopt the third person.
Overall, I was underwhelmed but I will look out for the next in the series and Smith should be applauded for the speed in which such a timely and accurate novel was published.
Recommended for: those who are looking for a topical read
Favourite quote:“Time travel is real…We do it all the time. Moment to moment, minute to minute.”
Thanks for reading – I hope you enjoyed it!