I can now take this back to the library, and I am glad I have read it, even if I feel a little…displaced right now. It wasn’t that I was so invested in the book that I have a book hangover, not like that, more… I feel dissatisfied because I don’t know the answers, but in a good (?) way, like, it doesn’t really matter that I don’t know the answers… I’m not sure I’m making sense. Possibly not, Ali Smith’s novel Autumn, while nominated for lots and lots of prizes, didn’t make much sense (in the traditional usage of the word) to me.
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.
Blurb from Goodreads
I’m not entirely sure where to start with this review. It makes very little sense, the words trip and fall over each other constantly. One chapter might be in first person, the view of a seven year old in an essay for school, the next may be third person, the next may be second person. Time dances about, and so does space. It’s beautifully lyrical, and the words just fall together like windchimes…but I am not entirely sure if there are ever any answers.
I suppose it’s about a relationship between an old man and a young girl, and how the relationship changes over time and how their conversations when she was younger has shaped the way she thinks in the present. It’s also about the Before and After of Brexit, and theres something about transcendence going on, about how your physical body isn’t it, because at one point Daniel Gluck is a tree and honestly… not sure why.
I’ve read in reviews that this is considered the first proper “post-Brexit novel” and it is very much framing the present as a world that is splitting itself in two. It followed a rather unusual narrative structure and it could be hard to follow the trail at some points, but it was beautiful. No idea what was going on half the time, but I know it was well done. I will confess that this overwhelming sense of ???? is why I tend to steer clear of the Man Booker prize and the “literary” types – well written they may be, I will not deny the ingenuity, but making sense isn’t always a pre-requisite.
Here are some of my favourite quotes, because it was very good for bitesized quotes:
“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.”
“Forgetting it is important. We do it on purpose. It means we get a bit of a rest. Are you listening? We have to forget. Or we’d never sleep ever again.“
“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’m tired of the vitriol. I’m tired of anger. I’m tired of the meanness. I’m tired of selfishness.“
“That’s the thing about things. They fall apart, always have, always will, it’s in their nature.“
Quotes from Autumn by Ali Smith
I feel like the last two books I’ve read have both been beautiful, but also leaving me with lots of questions and very few, if any answers. I may have to read a very clear cut novel to clear the questioning fog that has currently settled in my poor brain. Goodreads I gave this a 4* because I can appreciate it, even if I don’t really like it.