Reading: Autumn by Ali Smith

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Title: Autumn
Author: Ali Smith
Date finished: April 6, 2018.
Report posted: August 21, 2018



The fact that it’s taken me more than four months to write my reading report says a lot about my reaction to it. There are two main characters: a young woman – Elisabeth – and a very old man – Daniel. While not a romance the story is about their relationship over time. I am not a fan of novels which bounce back and forth through time and between narrators as this novel does. Perhaps because I had just read Janet Egan’s “A Visit From the Goon Squad” which employs this same structure on steroids I didn’t love Autumn.

On the plus side, the tone of the novel matches well with the season for which the book is named. Brexit is the backdrop to the story and England is turning gloomy and gray (grey?) with the death of winter is just around the corner: Daniel “… seems to be shut inside something remarkably like the trunk of a Scots pine. At least it smells like pine.” [p 89]

I’m always a sucker for similes in novels and this has a beautiful, evocative one: “Crying came out of her like weather.”[p 210]

There is plenty to like in this novel; it just didn’t resonate with me when reading it. Looking back on it a few months later, I appreciate it a bit more. This is a Man Booker prize finalist so obviously the literary critics’ world thinks more highly of it that I did. This is the first of a series of four novels – Winter and Spring are now available; I’m not sure I’ll take them on.

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