I won’t lie, before I won a copy of Autumn by Ali Smith from my local bookstore, I’d never heard of her.
At first, I was simply intrigued by the linen hardback and beautiful fall scenery on its outer slip. When I read the synopsis on Goodreads, I was sold by the assurance of an intricate story spanning generations, interwoven with an unconventional love story, while remaining incredibly current.
Autumn is the first in the four-part Seasonal quartet, of which two are now released. Being a quartet means that they are interlinked with overlapping themes, but can essentially be read as standalones, too. They are so current that I’m quite certain the second of four, Winter – which was released in November 2017 – was completed just two months before its release.
This novel follows the stories of 32-year-old Elisabeth and 101-year-old Daniel in a way that – in my reading experience – only Smith can do. Interweaving and interlocking the past and present of an unlikely pair who we learn have known each other since Elisabeth’s youth. Through a series of flashbacks and present-day events, we get a feeling of how different-but-ultimately-the-same Daniel and Elisabeth are.
The promise of a Brexit story scared me a bit, given my limited knowledge of the UK’s current affairs. I am a firm believer in ‘ignorance is bliss’ and, while that may be naïve of me as a writer, I choose to be very selective in the news I consume so as to keep my heart as fresh and innocent as I can. I felt lucky reading Autumn because I didn’t feel left out or phased by the fact that I was unable to connect with the Brexit theme that runs throughout.
I was, however, absolutely engulfed by the way Smith deals with love in this novel. Her writing is dreamlike. It has a way of pulling you in without even realizing where you’re going. Somehow you are taken into Elizabeth and Daniel’s lives, separately and together, and get to experience an incredible, unconventionally romantic love story: platonic between characters, proud between a person and their nation, deep between the self and art.
This novel was both nothing like I expected it to be and everything I needed it to be. I will rant and rave about this for years to come, that’s for sure!
REVIEWER: Darya Danesh