- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Penguin UK (7 December 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0241207010
- ISBN-13: 978-0241207017
- Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.1 x 23.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #55,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Autumn (Seasonal) Paperback – 7 Dec 2016
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I love Ali Smith's writing, and I've been keeping Autumn for an end-of-book holiday treat (Val McDermid, 'The Observer')
In a country apparently divided against itself, a writer such as Smith is more valuable than a whole parliament of politicians (Financial Times)
Bold and brilliant, dealing with the body blow of Brexit to offer us something rare: hope (Jackie Kay)
Humour, grace, solace...A light-footed meditation on mortality, mutability and how to keep your head in troubled times (The Guardian)
Transcendental writing about art, death and all the dimensions of love. It's not so much 'reading between the lines' as being blinded by the light between the lines - in a good way (Deborah Levy)
The novel of the year is obviously Ali Smith's Autumn, which managed the miracle of making at least a kind of sense out of post-Brexit Britain (The Observer)
Autumn is a beautiful, poignant symphony of memories, dreams and transient realities (The Guardian)
Experimental, thematically complex, associative, time-juggling, powered by a crazed and energetic curiosity (Sunday Times)
Pure literary magic (Mail on Sunday)
Puckish, yet elegant; angry, but comforting. Long may she Remain that way (The Times)
About the Author
Ali Smith was born in Inverness in 1962. She is the author of Free Love and Other Stories, Like, Other Stories and Other Stories, Hotel World, the Whole Story and Other Stories, the Accidental, Girl Meets Boy, the First Person and Other Stories, There but for the, Artful, How to be both and Public library and other stories. Hotel World was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize and the Accidental was shortlisted for the Man Booker and the Orange Prize. How to be both won the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, the Goldsmiths Prize and the Costa Novel Award and was shortlisted for the Man Booker and the Folio Prize. Ali Smith lives in Cambridge.
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Autumn by Ali Smith is a difficult book to review, it's been 6 days since I have read it and my thoughts are muddled, this book has so many layers that I feel I must read it again.
This is a story of an old man, a young girl, a women artist lost in time and buried under the skewed sexual perceptions and a scandal that gave birth to a piece of beautiful art.... It's a book about the upheaval in societies all around the world... It's everything and more.
Ali Smith is a wizard when it comes to writing and has an artist's eyes with her descriptive and lyrical prose. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and it's quality of talking about deep things in a such a readable manner. Definitely recommend it to everyone.
Sorry for the vague review but this one still has me flummoxed. Looking forward to rereading it and reading Winter!
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The novel concerns the relationship between Elisabeth and Daniel Gluck. Elisabeth, who has a tenuous relationship with her mother, meets her neighbor, Daniel Gluck, when she is eight years old and he is already in his 80s. Daniel plays an important role in Elisabeth's life, inspiring her to become an art historian. From the beginning, Elisabeth, who seems to exhibit more maturity than her own mother, enjoys conversations with Daniel that are fully articulate, spirited, imaginative and witty. The novel see-saws back and forth between past and present and Elisabeth has not seen Daniel for ten years when she learns that he is dying and she returns to sit by his deathbed.
The unusual style of the novel is evident from the very first page when the reader is told that "an old man washes up on a shore. . . The sea's been rough. It has taken the shirt off his back; . . .What's that in his mouth, grit? it's sand, it's under his tongue, he can feel it, he can hear it grinding when his teeth move against each other, singing its sand-song." The dead body is awakened in the form of his younger self but he is naked and he slips into a copse of trees where he magically sews leaves together to clothe himself. He recalls a postcard he purchased in Paris in the 1980s of a little girl in a park The reader is told: "She looked like she was dressed In dead leaves black and white photo dated not long after the war ended . . . Something about the child plus the dead leaves, terrible anomaly, a bit like she was wearing rags. Then again, rags weren't rags. . . . But then again again, a picture taken not long after, in a time when a child just playing in leaves could look, for the first time to the casual eye, like a rounded-up and offed child (it hurst to think of it) . . . or maybe also a nuclear-after child, the leaves hanging off her looked like skin become rags, . . .":This continues, in this vein for 11 full pages. I mention this because if the reader is not comfortable with this very nontraditional style of expression, then this is definitely not the novel for you.
The reference to trees continues throughout the novel. As Daniel remains in a comatose state, the reader is told that, "He seems to be shut inside something remarkably like the trunk of a Scot's pine. . . . There are worst tastes to have in a mouth though, truth be told, and the trunks of Scots pines do tend to be narrow. Straight and tall, because this is the kind of tree good for telegraph poles, for the props that it builders used. . . . Daniel in the bed, inside the tree, isn't panicking. . . ."
By the end of the novel, I am ashamed to admit that I started tiring of the stream-of-consciousness writing and I found myself skipping whole pages just to get to the end. In some ways, I felt like I often do when I am in front of a world-famous modern art painting and I am struggling to understand what it is, exactly, that I am supposed to be loving about this painting. I wanted to love this novel, but I tired of the word play and I tired of seemingly disconnected thoughts that would seem to continue endlessly page after page after page.
I can not wholeheartedly and authentically tell you to rush out to read this novel. I read it in one sitting because I wanted to get to the end of it and be done with it. I do not say that with any kind of pride because I am left with the nagging feeling that I must have missed something or maybe I should have been more patient to fully appreciate the nontraditional style of the novel.
If you are a very patient reader and if you love poetry and if you revel in reading texts that follow a very nontraditional form, then you may fully appreciate this novel.
The central story revolves around a friendship between an old man and a young girl who are neighbours. Their relationship is lovely and intellectual and deep and I was very moved by it. But all the other stories that are tied with this narrative, about a long forgotten British pop painter, about Brexit, about bureaucracy, about mother-daughter relationships, about a failing economy, they felt extraneous, uncompelling.
For example, even if the main characters seemed sympathetic to the racist and xenophobic atmosphere fanned by Brexit, the incidents and instances are left general and thus without the force that comes with particularity, from reading about a particular incident happening to a particular person. This distanced perspective comes off privileged, because it seems as if only the native born, the whites, are the ones who can feel pity or sympathy for the others, are the ones at the center of the story, are ones we get to read about.
I was also put off by the egregious punniness and proud-of-itself language. For example:
“…he’s nothing but a torn leaf scrap on the surface of a running brook, green veins and leaf-stuff, water and current, Daniel Gluck taking leaf of his senses at last, his tongue a broad green leaf, leaves growing through the sockets of his eyes, leaves thrustling (very good word for it) out of his ears, leaves tenderizing down through the caves of his nostrils and out and round til he’s swathed in foliage, leafskin, relief.”
I expected better, more beautiful, from the author of Girl Meets Boy whose lines I still quote years after reading it.
Still, Autumn isn’t difficult to read, and its main characters are charming and thoughtful. But I’m not likely to pick up the rest of the seasons when they come.
The book is told from two perspectives- Elisabeth, who is the main narrator with most of the story following her life. Daniel, who is a century year old and dying. His narrative is told from within his dreams as he lies within a nursing home. It is the story of both of these friends and their lives together and apart. Elisabeth struggles with love as she loves Daniel, without it being an eros type love, so she struggles with people who don't care for her the way Daniel does.
The story is told within a back and forth nature dropping the reader within the moment without letting the reader know the narrator, nor what time period it is. This is a little off-putting at first, but once you get into the groove, it just flows.
The writing is the main draw of the story too. It is as if it were poetic, freeform, and flow of consciousness. Ideas that start within one chapter appear in another chapter. A passport picture follows Elisabeth throughout the book and adds a bit of comedy throughout the book.
The book's background within the present portions follow the Brexit vote. Half of one town hates the other and things have become complicated. Elisabeth struggles with this as well.
When I finished the book, I could absolutely see why this was nominated. This is a beautiful book and contemporary, yet dealing with issues that flow through time. I am wondering if it has a chance of winning, but don't pass on this one.
I gave this one 4.5 stars.