Read Autumn (Seasonal #1) by Ali Smith Online

Autumn (Seasonal #1)

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. 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, separate 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 most 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....

Title : Autumn (Seasonal #1)
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780241207000
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 264 pages
Url Type : Home » Autumn » Autumn (Seasonal #1)
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Autumn (Seasonal #1) Reviews

  • Ilse

    This is England

    Autumn is to be the first instalment of ‘a seasonal quartet’ that Ali Smith plans to write - a cycle ‘exploring the subjective experience of time, questioning the nature of time itself'. Triggered to read it by the title – autumn is my favourite season – this first instalment was a wondrous introduction to Smith’s prose for me, so I eagerly look forward to the next parts now.

    Autumn is a playful, multi-layered and at times delectably subversive novel on the floating of time, aging,

    What you reading? Always be reading something, he said. Even when we’re not physically reading. How else will we read the world? Think of it as a constant.
    Smith parallels two key moments in recent history and present day UK by connecting them both to dishonesties in politics, suggesting these lies had critical impact on society, the Brexit vote and the Profumo Scandal of 1963. She astutely smuggles the latter into the novel by interlacing the scandal and the life of her main characters, Daniel and Elisabeth, with the vibrant and tragically short life of Pauline Boty (1938-1966), the only female representative artist in British Pop Art, whose legacy is continuously oscillating between oblivion and rediscovery. Pauline Boty used a shot of the famous chair photograph series by Lewis Morley of the women at the heart of the Profumo scandal, Christine Keeler, in a collage painting which has been mysteriously missing soon after she had painted it, Scandal ‘63.

    To say the least, these lies make people sick: She hadn’t known that proximity to lies, even just reading about them, could make you feel so ill. By showing the effect of lies by the powerful on society, how they divide people and infuriate them, Smith makes one ponder on the significance of truth. Is there really anything new under the sun in this acrimonious year of the prevalence of post-truth politics? Or it is just an illustration of the unchangeable nature of power and the corroded order of things?

    By reviving feminist artist Pauline Boty, Smith thematises the position of women in modern art. Some titles of Boty’s paintings, like ‘It’s a man’s world’ speak volumes in that respect. Smith’s Boty proclaims I am a person. I’m an intelligent nakedness. An intellectual body. I’m a bodily intelligence. Art’s full of nudes and I’m a thinking, choosing nude. I’m the artist as nude. I’m the nude as artist’.. This assertion reminded me of the mission statement of the Guerrilla Girls, a feminist group denouncing discrimination, tracking and keeping statistics on the representation of female artists in museums. Art still is a man’s world, to a very high extent.

    However obvious Smith’s sympathies in the debate, do not expect pure doom and gloom. Instead of wallowing in woeful defeatism, the characters shine in heart-warming and infectious combativeness and witty insurgence. The Kafkaesque scenes at the post office resemble absurdist sketches, while they are at the same time a virulent critique on the ridiculously bureaucratic demands regulation imposes on people - and on a society that turns a blind eye to the homeless which have to shelter in public buildings, without anyone blinking.

    The energetic pace of the writing, brimming with jocular wordplay, literary references and puns smoothly coincides with the melancholic undercurrent of this novel, as Autumn breathes an atmosphere of transience. People die, at young age. Everything is temporary, like the leaves falling in autumn. Entering history equals finding ‘endless sad fragility’:
    Elisabeth had last come to the field just after the circus had left, especially to look at the flat dry place where the circus had had its tent. She liked doing melancholy things like that. But now you couldn’t tell that any of these summer things had ever happened. There was just an empty field. The sports tracks had faded and gone. The flattened grass, the places that had turned to mud where the crowds had wandered round between the rides and the open-sided trucks of the driving and shooting games, the ghost circus ring: nothing but grass.

    Il faut reculer pour mieux sauter. Perhaps one could say that Ali Smith in a way indulges in facile preaching to the choir, mollycoddling the right-minded citizens mourning the present state of the world. But why not just delight in her eloquently phrased discourse and lithe sentences, nodding approvingly while licking one’s wounds instead of sinking into despair? Fite dem Back.

    I thank NetGalley, Penguin and Ali Smith for granting me an ARC.


  • Fionnuala

    What are you reading?

    A tale of two people.

    Tell me about it.

    It's a book full of leaves, green ones and brown ones. And white ones too, of course.

    Ha! But seriously, describe it to me.

    It's a book with a hole in the middle.

    Now you're just being absurd.

    No, wait. There's really as much absence as presence in this book.

    Tell me what's in it - not what's not in it.

    It's a book of fragments that fit together in odd arrangements.

    Give me an example of the way the fragments fit together.

    There's a sister who

  • Seemita

    [A formidable 3.5]

    [Originally appeared here:]

    She has done it in the past; and she does it again here. Ali Smith’s fixation on, and a visible mastery of, story-telling across timeline, in no particular order, shines in this experimental, breezy novel as well.

    Centred around the 30-something Elisabeth Demand and her centenarian friend, Daniel Gluck, Autumn is a long, vibrant, occasionally melancholic, sometimes acerbic but entirely warming season of their fr

    The man creases up. It seems he was joking; his shoulders go up and down but no sound comes out of him. It's like laughter, but also like a parody of laughter, and simultaneously a bit like he's having an asthma attack. May be you're not allowed to laugh out loud behind the counter of the main Post Office.
    Whether it is the ridiculous bureaucratic hurdles she encounters in her efforts to secure a passport or the disdain she receives at her rebellious choice of thesising on Pauline Boty,Elisabeth comes across as a feisty heroine who is subdued by the autumnal phase of her friend and the dried momentum of her own life. Amidst random allusion to political upheavals in Europe (read Brexit) and the millennium bug, it is the generous badinage between the two key characters that bring this work to life. Velvets of sentiment and pun run through the pages, making Elisabeth’s first person narrative as effective as Daniel’s reticent third person narrative.

    At once, hilarious, stimulating, querulous and refreshing, this is Smith’s frolicking side at play, without losing the sight of her trademark percipience. Winter, I await.

    [Note: Thanks to Netgalley, Ali Smith and Penguin Books (UK) for providing me an ARC.] ...more

  • Paul Fulcher

    Update: Shortlisted for the Booker and it would be a wonderfully worthy winner - and the novel has aged better than I had predicted - if anything as the written-as-you-read-it Brexit autumn leaves have faded, the evergreen parts of the text show through.

    Pauline Boty with her, now lost, painting Scandal 63 based on (a variation of) the famous Christine Keeler photographic portrait by Lewis Morley.

    For my full review of Autumn please see the excellent Mookse and Gripes blog (to which this review is

  • Hannah

    My thoughts are all over the place for this book – maybe fitting because this is what this book is as well: all over the place. There is undeniable brilliance here: sentences so profound they made me stop in my tracks, word plays so wonderful I had to read them twice, musing on a great number of important things. It comes as no surprise that Ali Smith is a genius. But for some reasons these sparks of brilliance never came together for a coherent whole for me – and I guess this was also the point ...more

  • Lark Benobi

    The novel seems to want to present me with all the sadness in the world, and all the bleakness of recent history, and it seemed determined to remind me of all the meannesses that people can heap upon one another (some of it through neglect) (some of it through evil acts)--and yet even as the novel forced me to face these things, at its center was a beautiful hope. The novel is a paean to the power of language, and to the mystery of human interaction, and to the way small daily gestures of kindne ...more

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I was going to save this to read in the autumn, but then it was included in the Man Booker Prize Long List so I moved it up.

    This is described as a post-Brexit novel, and it does take place in that world and mentions it a few times in a few different ways, but more in the way that all of us continue in the world as it changes around us.

    "...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

  • Hannah Greendale

    Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.