by Ali Smith
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 Kingdon 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.
Ali Smith’s new novel is a meditation on a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive, on what richness and worth are, on what harvest means. It is the first installment of her Seasonal quartet—four stand-alone books, seperate yet interconnected and cyclical (as the seasons are)—and it casts an eye over our own time. Who are we? What are we made of? Shakespearean jeu d’esprit, Keatsian melancholy, the sheer bright energy of 1960s pop art: the centuries cast their eyes over our own history making.
Here’s where we’re living. Here’s time at its more contemporaneous and its most cyclic.
From the imagination of the peerless Ali Smith comes a shape-shifting series, wide-ranging in time-scale and light-footed through histories, a story about aging and time and love and stories themselves.
“Impressionistic and intricate…I can think of few writers — Virginia Woolf is one, James Salter another — so able to propel a narrative through voice alone…Autumn, for all its braininess, is never difficult. Smith feels like a genial guide leading us through a torrent of ideas — about art, history, literature, feminism, memory. This is a novel that works by accretion, appearing light and playful, surface-dwelling, while all the time enacting profound changes on the reader’s heart.” —Financial Times
“In form and voice, Smith is reminiscent of Virginia Woolf.” —Louise Swinn, The Age
“Already acknowledged as one of the most inventive novelists writing in Britain today, with her new novel, Autumn, Ali Smith also proves herself to be one of the country’s foremost chroniclers, her finger firmly on the social and political pulse.” —The Independent
“Smith’s work sparkles so much that one can be blinded to the fact that its intelligence, wit, sincerity and generosity is hard-earned and technically sophisticated…Smith straddles the elegiac and the celebratory throughout this glorious novel. It manages to be both pertinent and perpetual; in her own words she can ‘bagatelle it as it is’.” —The Scotsman
“A poignant and subtle exploration of the way we experience time…Autumn is a beautiful, poignant symphony of memories, dreams and transient realities; the “endless sad fragility” of mortal lives.” —The Guardian
“In a world that seems to be crumbling around us, thank goodness we’ve still got Ali Smith telling us stories about it.” —The Pool
“Smith’s bold voice defies the toxicity of politics and offers rays of hope” —Louise Swinn, The Age
“The material is incredibly well handled, and it is certainly one of her very best books to date; perhaps the very best, in fact....The novel’s wordplay is exhilarating. Autumn is a triumph; compulsive and compelling, timely and timeless. It is a wonderful, wondrous book. When I reached the all too brief end, I was tempted to go right back to the beginning and read it all over again.” —The Literary Sisters
“To describe Ali Smith’s new book Autumn as the “first post-Brexit” novel, with all the connotations of knee-jerk worthiness that evokes, is to do it a disservice. Though the book is set soon after the Leave vote, and captures the prevailing mood of uncertainty, it is less a dissection of contemporary politics than a free-floating meditation on time, memory and the transience of existence, in which ideas swirl round like fallen leaves.” —The National
“Autumn is an exploration of aging, time, memory and the enduring power of love…transcendent.” —Sunday Times
“It’s hard to think of another contemporary writer so adept at splicing the ordinary and the marvellous.” —Observer
‘‘It is undoubtedly Smith at her best…this book sets Smith’s complex creative character in stone: puckish yet elegant, angry but comforting. Long may she remain that way.” —The Times
“Autumn is humorous and heart-warming, with skilful movement between time frames…” —Stylist
“In a country apparently divided against itself, a writer such as Smith is more valuable than a whole parliament of politicians.” —Financial Times
“A masterclass in storytelling…Smith touches on the burning issues of the present day… an engaging and devastatingly relevant read at a time when nothing is certain…Smith’s beautifully written exploration of time and changing seasons will no doubt attract a legion of fans, who will eagerly await its sequel” —Stylist
“As Ali Smith joins the dots a richly layered portrait of contemporary Britain starts to emerge.” —Mail on Sunday
“Outstanding snapshot of a country – in fact, a world – seemingly locked in a nightmarish spiral of intolerance, fear and suspicion…a beautiful meditation on how uneasy a powerless life can feel… Winter can’t come soon enough. Smith is at the very peak of her powers” —The National
“Autumn triumphantly shows how our stories don’t belong to us alone but are part of a larger narrative of humanity and the time we live in.” —Lonesome Reader
“As ever, there is so much wonder in Ali Smith’s writing and she is an empathetic, captivating storyteller. The litheness of her language is a joy, ranging from the playful to the deadly serious, every word heartfelt and vital.” —Express UK