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Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  495 ratings  ·  101 reviews
From one of our most astute observers of human nature, a far-reaching exploration of Japanese history and culture and a moving meditation on impermanence, mortality, and grief.

For years, Pico Iyer has split his time between California and Nara, Japan, where he and his Japanese wife, Hiroko, have a small home. But when his father-in-law dies suddenly, calling him back to
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 30th 2019 by Viking (first published April 16th 2019)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  495 ratings  ·  101 reviews

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Jun 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who appreciate the blessing of life
It is good to meet life sometimes; not by seeing it in the eye but by interlocking fingers and walking by its side.

In this book, Pico Iyer finds himself undertaking such a walk, under the light-heavy shadows of autumn.

Twenty-five years after he first came to Japan as a 26-year old, enthusiastic, US-based journalist, he is compelled to make an unplanned visit back. The reason? Death of his father-in-law. His wife, Hiroko, conveys this news over phone and Iyer finds himself back in the quiet,
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was such a quiet book, about autumn, about aging, and loss, and courage, and 'autumn light in a quiet room,' it was almost a meditation to read it--it creates its own environment, an emotional space in the reader quiet enough to unfold the book's philosophical and spiritual case. Japan is a culture of age, of preoccupation with time and season. In the book, age's presence is represented by the author's social circle, of which he is sort of a junior mascot to the seniors who gather to play ...more
Madhulika Liddle
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
The cover of Pico Iyer’s Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells is adorned with a spray of spring blossoms. Pretty white flowers, picture postcard perfect: incongruous, at first glance, with even the very title of the book. These flowers belong in spring, not in autumn. But pay closer attention, and you see that the flowers are falling, shedding petals as they drift down. Dying already, the invisible parent tree above them already moving closer to the next season.

Autumn Light is a memoir
William E.
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Visiting Japan in March and I couldn't be more excited. This was a lovely little read that left me thinking while reinforcing my excitement. Although now I sorta kinda wish I was visiting in Autumn...
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Autumn poses the question we all have to live with: How to hold on to the things we love even though we know that we and they are dying. How to see the world as it is, yet find light within that truth.’

‘I think of our own family and see how the story is the same: my father-in-law, after seven years in war and twenty years working for the government, saves up enough to send his son off to America for graduate school. The result is that his son barely speaks to him again. Hiroko longs to get a
Very Japanese "eyes" to the impermanence of life and the physical world. But not utterly pessimistic in the telling. Not at all. It holds immense descriptive segments and reflects both the love of Japan and Japanese culture and his wife in particular that the author holds.

Most of it is surely true, and applies to the most beautiful season of autumn. And the autumn years of various outcomes. The contemplation, meditation ideal is held throughout the memoir too.

It's also too self-absorbed and
Elvina Zafril
Beautifully written. This is such a calm book to read. It’s about autumn, about aging, fear of change, about the loss of loved ones and about courage. A lovely meditation on time.

I’ve never experienced autumn. I don’t know what it feels like. I really want to visit Japan. I hope I can visit Japan one day. This book focuses more about the autumn and the deeper meaning of the autumn.

In the process, the author discusses more on the aspects of his life and people around him, the death of his father
Is Autumn really the end? Do we have to feel bad when the leaves change color and fall off, my mother always says -it feels sad to know that all these beautiful colors will go away. Or do we think of it as prequel to the beautiful and vibrant spring?
Whatever it is, Autumn is beautiful, with its colors, smells and the chilling breezes. And that season is made all the more beautiful by Iyer in his book, which feels like it has no plot but makes you realize that, that is the whole point.

In this
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book because for me, it was the perfect book for this stage of my life. You don't read Iyer for his insight into people, but more for his insight into life and his observations and descriptions of his surroundings. He captured autumn in Japan perfectly and in a very Japanese way. He's both poetic and pragmatic and his book says nothing and everything. When he described places that I am familiar with my memories became brighter and fonder.

I am not sure how this book would appeal to a
tasya (the literary faerie)
I would like to thank Pansing for sending me a copy of Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells by Pico Iyer in exchange for my review.

The fact that the book takes place mostly in Japan made it more interesting. His expository of Nara, a beautiful historical city in Japan, was also very meticulous and makes me wishing so badly that I could be there during the autumn season

The author's writing style is somewhat refreshing and flows nicely. I almost shed tears at the very last sentence of the
Ian Josh
Full Review:

Very much a sequel to The Lady and the Monk, with very much similar issues.

Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Autumn - Pico Iyer

This such a lovely book about seeing and living life. It was beautiful. Pico Iyer is a very talented writer. The scenes of the autumn leaves are exquisite. He captures the myriad ways people respond to life and the season. The book is filled with grace because the author is.

The book, as the title says, is about Autumn and the autumns in life. About the natural periods of change in life and how they are met and change, as they do, over time. It’s about family. It’s about Japan
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 Stars!

I had never heard of this guy before, until stumbling upon an interview with him on the radio and I have to be honest I actually thought it was a woman talking for most of the interview, and not only that, it turns out that he has been rather busy of late and has published two books this year. I happened to pick up the wrong one. There’s lessons there for everyone!.

Anyway, in many ways this is a story of death, decline, dementia and deterioration, we learn some grim facts such as more
May 01, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is a love-letter to the author's wife, Hiroko, as well as an attempt to come to terms with the process of aging and the loss of loved ones. The book starts on the day Iyer learns that his hale and hearty father-in-law has been taken into hospital. A few days later, the old man is dead, leaving Hiroko to care after her mother. Hiroko's only brother, Masohiro, who rejected his entire biological family decades before, supposedly because of Hiroko's divorce, doesn't show up at the funeral ...more
Sep 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Might be biased, given how it’s about my favourite season, but Pico Iyer’s writing truly is special.
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a followup to the author's book (I thought when it came out it was categorized as a novel) the Lady and the Monk. If that was spring--new love, possibilities, growth-- this is autumn--maturity and the realization that things end, people die, everything can't be fixed. The lady and the monk had this wonderful beginning (pure Pico Iyer!) of him wandering around the town of Narita--he was in Tokyo on a layover and decides to take advantage of the free shuttle to go see the famous Shingon ...more
Meisha Lee-Allmond
Struggled with the pacing/structure of this book at times, but there is such lovely imagery and sentiment woven throughout it compelled me to keep reading.
Jt O'Neill
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy reading everything Pico Iyer writes. We may have some differences from time to time but his prose often reads like poetry and that makes up for any differences. I did have a little trouble getting into this book as he is more circular and I was looking for linear. Once I adjusted my reading to his writing, I was able to take my time and absorb the truths about which he was writing.

Pico put a whole new spin on autumn for me in this book. Historically, I have not liked autumn. I've though
Apurva Nagpal
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
“Cheery blossoms, pretty and frothy as schoolgirls’ giggles, are the face the country like to present to the world, all pink and white eroticism; but it’s the reddening of the maple leaves under a blaze of ceramic-blue skies that is the place’s Secret heart.”

Part memoir part travelogue, Autumn Light is a Literary trip to Japan We follow Iyer to Kyoto, a small town in Japan, after his father-in-law’s demise, overcoming the aftermath of death, loss and change.

The book doesn’t follow a particular
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A nicely flowing kind of read with musings and descriptions of life in Japan, or could be applied to any older person’s “autumn” years. The comfort of this daily sort of actions plus the author’s feelings, all seems natural even with containing undertones of meaning for his specific behaviors and philosophies.
A good 3.5 stars.
Note: page 206 “ . . . the river’s always the same, as they say round here, even though the water’s always in motion.”
And page 207 “ . . . only way to be happy is to
Kathleen Ambrose
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: end-of-life
Not sure why but I had some trouble getting into this book and almost gave up. So glad I didn’t for it is a true gem. Borrowing from the author’s thoughts I’ll say little more.
“Words have little value in the kingdom of essential things. They’re just decorations on the feelings too deep for us to put into syllables.”
On to Pico Iyer’s The Art of Stillness.
patrice lester
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book drew me in page by page. It is a story of loss; and, discovery. Seasons; and, connection. With Japan as the backdrop, this is both travelogue and narrative into family dynamics and how past history can thread its way into the present. It provides insight into another culture and the authors' artistry as he distills his observations into words makes this a joy to read.
Bob Peru
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
elegant and elegiac.
Jun 03, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book chronicled the changes and the unchanging impermanence of life through the lens of a season, autumn, in the Japanese culture. At times I had a hard time following Pico Iyer's train of thought and I see that reflected in some of the reviews. I didn't understand his wife's misuse of the word "little" in so many of her quotes and it didn't seem to have any modifying definition within the sentence. That was a mystery to me.

I found myself alternating between being bored and feeling that
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lyrical. A book of prose to reflect on the essence of life. Gathered around the theme of autumn: the season when the resplendent fruitions of life shared display their glory and foretell their eventual transience.

“Everything is nothing, and nothing is everything,” the author recalls a monk repeating. And this is as apt a summary of the book’s recurring theme as any. What we fret most about is in the end ultimately inconsequential. All passes as the leaves of the trees that Spring and Summer
Lori Eshleman
Writer Pico Iyer reflects on the changing of seasons in Nara, Japan, where he has a home. Having fallen in love with Japan and his wife Hiroko almost three decades before, he returns to Japan each year. As a fan of Japanese literature, I enjoyed his reflections on Japanese culture, people, and seasonal rituals. For him, Autumn is a season of reflection and remembrance, as he looks back on his early encounters with Hiroko, how they created a life together with her two children, their encounters ...more
Divya Ramesh
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I grew up experiencing only summer and monsoon, and almost naturally fell in love with fall and spring when I moved away for a few years. Giving up one to gain another. Gaining perspective through fresh eyes. Transitions are what this book describes, through quiet, almost meditative writing.

"I don't want to pretend I know more than I do, or fully belong where I don't and never can."

I love the change of seasons because change itself is beautiful, and in this lilting book, Pico Iyer draws out much
I liked this book, but I got lost sometimes. I enjoyed Iyer's musings about aging and liked learning a little about the Japanese culture. It was just difficult to follow his train of thought at times, especially when he recorded his wife's broken english. Why did she use the word little so often?
C Christensen
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful, restful walk through one American's life in Kyoto with his Japanese wife and her community. Well written and a welcome escape from the here and now.
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely meditation on time, place, aging and the seasons of life (and nature). I remember reading Pico Iyer's Video Night in Kathmandu years ago and the excitement of it was part of what gave me a lifelong travel bug. This book turns that around and truly appreciates being in one place and finding the place that fits you and where you fit and that it's not always what you expect. Anglo Indian Iyer finds it in Japan with an unconventional Japanese wife and a lot of old, Japanese people, even as ...more
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Pico Iyer is a British-born essayist and novelist of Indian descent. As an acclaimed travel writer, he began his career documenting a neglected aspect of travel -- the sometimes surreal disconnect between local tradition and imported global pop culture. Since then, he has written ten books, exploring also the cultural consequences of isolation, whether writing about the exiled spiritual leaders of ...more
“Her kids and I tease her remorselessly about her devotion to cleaning, but of course it’s Hiroko’s deeper cleanliness—her freedom from second thoughts, from the need to gossip, from malice or the hunger for complexity—that is one of her sovereign gifts. Dusting is how she clears her head. Cohen himself, asked about his Zen training, explained, “It’s just house cleaning. From time to time the dust and the dirty clothes accumulate in the corners and it’s time to clean up.” 0 likes
“Now I see it’s in the spaces where nothing is happening that one has to make a life.” 0 likes
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