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(Seasonal #1)

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  54,697 ratings  ·  4,621 reviews
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...
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published October 20th 2016 by Hamish Hamilton
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Elisabeth Anderson Because, with respect, the award was for the book rather than if you liked it or not. There are many books that get awards and you're bound to not lik…moreBecause, with respect, the award was for the book rather than if you liked it or not. There are many books that get awards and you're bound to not like all of them. (less)

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Adina (taking a break from literary fiction)
I don’t know. I don’t know what to write about Autumn. I don’t even know what I’ve read. What was I supposed to get from this book, what was the purpose? Was it a Brexit novel? I don’t think so. It does talk some about Brexit. But it also talks about a strange friendship between a little girl (presently grown up) and an old man. Odd conversations those two had. And about a dubious Pop Artist. There were also a few weird, moderately fun, post office conversations. There were some interesting part ...more
Nov 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: uk, reviewed, 2016
This is England

Autumn is the first instalment of Ali Smith’s ‘seasonal quartet’ - 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 episode was a wondrous introduction to Smith’s writing for me. Awaiting, anticipating, wondering about the next episodes to come – which characters would return, which artists Ali Smith would spotlight - was an integral part of the marvellous an
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
Barry Pierce
2020 update: this is still amazing.

Hailed as the first post-Brexit novel, in Autumn Ali Smith proves to us all that she is probably the greatest writer currently working in the United Kingdom. The fact that this novel was published a mere four months after the disastrous Brexit vote but yet analyses its aftermath as a central theme shows a turnaround that is nearly insane. Smith must have practically vomited this novel into her word processor, which makes its utter flawlessness almost divine
Diane S ☔
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Ali Smith is not an easy author to read and yet her words and thoughts are beautiful. If you like a linear plot, you will not find it here, though it is mostly set in the period after Brexit, it goes back and forth in time. To a friendship between a young girl and an elderly man, a man who had quite a past, which is slowly uncovered. The thoughts expressed about Brexit are the same many are expressing here in the states after our recent election. Wonderfully and adroitly expressed about the way ...more
Violet wells
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was struggling with this initially. Ali Smith's prose style reminds me of someone dressed in a dressing gown and slippers, hair unbrushed, wandering about a house with barely a grain of self-consciousness. In stark contrast to lots of writers who spend hours in front the mirror, layering on embellishment after embellishment, before they take a step onto the page. Smith can give the impression of voicing aloud her thoughts the moment she has them. No artificial colouring or sweetening additives ...more
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My fourth book from the Booker longlist, this is another that, like Reservoir 13, would have made a worthy winner. At the time of its release this book was billed as the first Brexit novel, but there is so much more to it than that.

update 19 Oct - Sadly, and yet again, Ali Smith did not win, but I was very impressed by her performance and the way she encouraged Emily Fridlund and Fiona Mozley at the Nottingham shortlist readings event, which I attended last week (the other three shortlisted wri
Charlotte May
Ok so.... I didn’t really get it 🤷‍♀️

I think I'm just going to have to stay away from the Booker Nominees. There always seems to be some hidden secret that everyone else knows, which gives the book 5 star reviews, while I sit here just....lost.

Autumn is written in non-linear prose. Which is a good starting point as to why I didn't like it - I can't get with that type of writing. I like my stories in some kind of order, at the very least. In Autumn we jump from Elisabeth as a child, hanging out w
Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, arc, netgalley
"April come she will
When streams are ripe and swelled with rain
May she will stay
Resting in my arms again
June she'll change her tune
In restless walks she'll prowl the night"

--“April Come She Will” lyrics by Paul Simon

"It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times."

Traveling back and forth through time, the past to the present, from Elisabeth’s childhood and meeting her new neighbor Daniel Gluck, to the brink of the political climate that began with Brexit, this story covers a lot of terri
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
I'm not sure I can do justice to reviewing this or explaining what it is about - I suspect each time it's read, a new layer is revealed and it becomes something quite different. Let me just say the writing and wordplay is superb! Imaginative, perceptive, unexpectedly quite funny in places, and tender in others. I'd say the resounding theme in this book is loss - summer gives way to autumn in the seasons and in our lives, but there is beauty to be found in the journey.

Don't go in to this expectin
Jan 25, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-lit-uk
Autumn was my first Ali Smith novel and I liked it rather than loved it.
The book concerns the long term relationship between its two central characters, Elisabeth Demand and her elderly neighbour Daniel.
It’s refracted storyline is told through a series of seemingly random scenes, conversations, dreams and imagined incidents. We jump about in time and the effect is often surreal.
I’m still trying to work out how much I actually enjoyed the novel ........
At first the language felt awkward and jagge
It is November and outside my front door roses are still blooming. Their color is a deep rich clear pink. They look better than they did in the dry heat of summer.

Smith’s first novel in her proposed quartet of volumes is an utter delight. I’d never encountered her voice before but when I got to the end, I looked again at the beginning. Just as well, because I had forgotten that Daniel speaks, briefly, before the story gets picked up by “his granddaughter,” Elisabeth, with an “s.”

What I find quee
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ali-smith
This is not only the first of four novels based on the seasons, but it has also been acclaimed as the first Brexit novel. This makes it very British in some ways and the feelings in the country and the reactions to the vote form part of the novel, as in this much quoted piece:
“All across the country, there was misery and rejoicing. All across the country, what had happened whipped about by itself as if a live electric wire had snapped off a pylon in a storm and was whipping about in the air abov
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
Dec 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Do you like Eva Cassidy?
I am afraid much of this abstract work went way over my head. The subversive criticism of post-truth politics in a new era of mass media, the half-comic, half-indignant sketches of our senseless bureaucratic system, the sadly recurrent reality of female artists neglected again and again in a world ruled by men.
Smith’s creates a collage with such weighty subjects and uses it to paint the backdrop of Elisabeth and Daniel’s story while traveling back and forth in time.

The perception of time is pre
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed Autumn, which is possibly Ali Smith’s most accessible book yet, however I wasn’t as wholly blown away by it as most people. I mean it’s still BRILLIANT because it’s Ali Smith. I adored the story of Daniel and Elisabeth over the years, I loved how Elizabeth’s mother developed. I agreed politically on Brexit and her observations of the good and bad... the art bit though just didn’t feel needed and dragged me away from what I was loving. And loving so much. Just my thoughts. Will b ...more
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heaps of spine-tingling narrative pleasure. One feels one’s short hairs standing on end while reading. Horripilating, is that the word? Like migraine aura but far more fun. Autumn’s a book about enlightened values versus what we’ve been getting lately from the mobocracy. No need to mention the B word or the T word here. Most things I read, the author’s point of view does not reflect my values, though he or she may come close. Quite the opposite with Autumn. Reading Smith one feels one has met wi ...more
Jan 12, 2017 rated it liked it
[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
lark benobi
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Roger Brunyate

Every Story Tells a Picture

At the heart of Ali Smith's seemingly chaotic but actually tightly-organized new novel is a love relationship, between a thirtyish art lecturer, Elisabeth Demand, and a 101-year-old man, Daniel Gluck. Their love was born over two decades earlier, when Elisabeth's mother roped in her elderly neighbor to look after her daughter. And what a baby-sitter Daniel turns out to be: playful, irreverent, respectful, and always intellectually challenging! One afternoon, he offers
Matthew Quann
I finished this novel a few days ago, but put off the review. To speak quite frankly, I think Autumn is a novel that is a touch too smart for me to properly wrap my head around. Smith's prose flips, twists, jumps, and skitters across the page with vivacity and wit, but also left me feeling overwhelmed with stylistic experimentation. So, I turned to interviews with Smith and reviews others have written to better understand what I had just read.

It isn't simply the writing that left me confused, bu
MJ Nicholls
Nov 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Ali Smith is a prolific story writer, critic, and playwright, but her novels alone have blasted her into the mesosphere of critical adulation, and this first part of an exciting seasonal quartet furthers her familiar brand of humorous, gentle, playful, and bedazzling brilliance. Timehopping across the century, the novel focuses on the adopted father relationship between an art lecturer and an enigmatic former dancer, lyricist, and sixties art scenester. Featuring another of Smith’s precocious yo ...more
Nov 25, 2016 rated it really liked it

Death, Dickens, refugees, trees, fear, old age, Brexit, friendship, Shakespeare, love, lies, Christine Keeler, art, fences, stories, Pauline Boty (lots of the lovely Pauline Boty), seeing, Keats, disillusionment, rebirth, Ovid, exclusion, women, awakening.

(Even 'Trump' is a one-word sentence within the novel, though I hesitate to add it to the list, except to note that it adds to the contemporaneity. Perhaps she means the verb and it's an imperative sentence...nope.)

Weave all of the above an
4.5★ (Read and reviewed February 28, 2017)

Oh my, what to make of this book? I’ve not read Ali Smith before, and I can’t recall anything that was quite the mix of poetry, history, art, family dynamics, and philosophy – not to mention politics.

I love her writing – I would have enjoyed the Pop Art more if I’d had any idea who the artist was (link below). And I’m overloaded with politics and populism and Brexit, so less of that would have suited me better, because I was really enjoying the “story”,
Oct 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
At first I couldn't be sure whether I loved or hated this short novel. Ali Smith's language is like a maze for the mind. It's both stilted and beautiful, a stream of consciousness that reworks the reader's own thoughts into a new pattern. It feels like a freeing of the consciousness but also like a new set of walls. It takes you outside your own experience of time, but forces you into someone else's, stating with a character's death dreamscape. It's not always comfortable. In many ways reminded ...more
Nobody writes like Ali Smith. That's absolutely my favorite thing about her books. Once you start reading you remember just how witty, observant, and playful she is, and how that comes through so clearly through her writing style. It's no different in Autumn, the first in a quartet of seasonal novels the author has begun, musing on art, politics, and the tumultuous nature of life in all its different seasons.

This first installment is clearly a post-Brexit musing—but that's not all it aims to be.
I love the word quotidian and it has to do with the following quote from the book:

Here's and old story so new that it's still in the middle of happening. Writing itself right now with no knowledge of where or how it'll end.

To me, this is the essence of this literary work.

Time travel is real, Daniel said. We do it all the time. Moment to moment, minute to minute.

And that's what makes us all quotidian beings, writing our own histories while reading other's stories. We're all in this time capsule
Eric Anderson
Oct 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Ali Smith is an author whose writing embodies absolute passion, invention and positivity – this is true despite her new novel “Autumn” beginning with the line “It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times.” Because she is writing about the contemporary including this year’s recent significant referendum where the UK voted to leave theEuropean Union, this statement playing upon Dickens’ famous opening accurately reflects the political and social feeling for many people in this country. Wh ...more
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What's Next?: Book Review: Autumn 3 9 May 24, 2020 07:22PM  
Play Book Tag: [Poll Ballot] Autumn by Ali Smith - 4 stars 1 11 May 16, 2020 04:02PM  
21st Century Lite...: Autumn--Part 3 & Whole Book 29 45 Apr 17, 2020 02:30PM  
21st Century Lite...: Autumn--Background/Resources/Reviews 21 43 Mar 25, 2020 12:09AM  
21st Century Lite...: Autumn--Part 2 6 17 Mar 23, 2020 11:04AM  
Play Book Tag: autumn | ali smith 5 18 Mar 23, 2020 05:20AM  
Play Book Tag: [Poll Ballot] Autumn by Ali Smith - 4 stars 5 15 Feb 01, 2020 08:32PM  

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Ali Smith is a writer, born in Inverness, Scotland, to working-class parents. She was raised in a council house in Inverness and now lives in Cambridge. She studied at Aberdeen, and then at Cambridge, for a Ph.D. that was never finished. In a 2004 interview with writing magazine Mslexia, she talked briefly about the difficulty of becoming ill with chronic fatigue syndrome for a year and how it for ...more

Other books in the series

Seasonal (4 books)
  • Winter (Seasonal #2)
  • Spring (Seasonal, #3)
  • Summer (Seasonal, #4)

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“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 vitriol. I'm tired of anger. I'm tired of the meanness. I'm tired of selfishness. I'm tired of how we're doing nothing to stop it. I'm tired of how we're encourageing it. I'm tired of the violence that's on it's way, that's coming, that hasn't happened yet. I'm tired of liars. I'm tired of sanctified liars. I'm tired of how those liars have let this happen. I'm tired of having to wonder whether they did it out of stupidity or did it on purpose. I'm tired of lying governments. I'm tired of people not caring whether they're being lied to anymore. I'm tired of being made to feel this fearful.” 100 likes
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