Saturday, 4 March 2017

Autumn by Ali Smith       {Reviewed by STELLA}
Ali Smith’s Autumn is a meditation on time, a book about a friendship, love and the surprising things that the past can reveal to us in the present. Daniel Gluck talks about time travel being real to the child, Emily, and in Autumn, Smith is taking us on a ride that is not linear, that dips us in and out of the life of Mr Gluck through the memories of Emily, and through her friendship with Daniel. The book opens with a wonderful dream sequence, one in which Daniel believed he has died. He is in fact in a care facility moving in and out of consciousness, letting his mind wander to elements of his past. In contrast, we meet Emily in the Post Office dealing with meaningless bureaucracy in her attempt to secure a new passport. As 32-year-old Emily sits at the bedside of her elderly friend we are given a window into her childhood memories of her friendship with her elderly next-door neighbour, a relationship that undoubtedly has been pivotal in Emily’s life, giving her an interest in slices of culture and history that she otherwise would have been unlikely to have had. Yet this isn’t where the success of this novel lies: Smith has cleverly laid out what it means to live in the UK, post-Brexit, by delving into the conventions of the past, by unveiling hypocrisy. Written in Smith’s lyrical yet spare style, this book has left me with plenty to think about: what does time and experience mean, and how does this impact on the way we approach our place in the histories we exist within? Autumn is the first in a ‘seasonal’ series and I’m curious to see where the other three seasons take us.

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