Seemita's Reviews > Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells

Autumn Light by Pico Iyer
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really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, bio-autobio-memoir, japan, culture, nostalgia, asia, philo
Recommended 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, unhurried neighbourhood of Nara.
Hiroko’s hometown is a silky courtesan who knows how to bewitch every newcomer, even in old age, with her natural sense of style, her lacquered designs; Nara is the absentminded older brother who’s forever pottering around in the garden, wondering where he put the key.
Dealing with loss can generate many projections. But in Japan, perhaps, it hovers over the sturdy base of impermanence, making the resultant image a parable of quiet agility and enviable acceptance. Iyer is no stranger to this Japanese ethos, making it to this country every fall, for a quarter century now. But over the backdrop of a loss so intimate and aching, his visit this time turns especially remarkable – he sees his days consumed by visits to his mother-in-law in an old-age home, table-tennis sessions with his neighbours, errands for the house, eventful moments with his step-daughter and comforting picture of his wife living by, and reflects on the gurgling vein of life that isn’t afraid to run meek in autumn because slowing down is as significant as springing up.
What do we have to hold on to? Only the certainty that nothing will go according to design; our hopes are newly built wooden houses, sturdy until someone drops a cigarette or match.
To merge the many films of past and not let the result unsettle, to hearken the heartbeat of future and not arrest its natural tempo, to extend arms to the heart’s content and scoop close the whiff of present, a walk like that in the autumn light is precisely what I took in this book. And there was no closure; just a delicate healing that descended on nerves that were hitherto unaware of their restlessness.
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Reading Progress

May 13, 2019 – Started Reading
May 13, 2019 – Shelved
June 10, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-26 of 26 (26 new)

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message 1: by Agnieszka (new)

Agnieszka Charming, nostalgic review, Simi. Loved reading your thoughts... And so glad to hear from you after a while :)


message 2: by Ilse (new)

Ilse A delicate balm calming the heart unconscious of its unrest, your last paragraph is poetry in itself, Seemita. The second quote rings so true and beautifully phrases what we sooner or later all learn in life. Glad having found your review on this first evening of summer.


message 3: by Florencia (new)

Florencia I'm so grateful for this review since it brought to my attention what it seems to be a truly thought-provoking book. Words that may bring solace and allow us to move on. The second quote you included has resonated with me on many levels. It's one of those ideas that one understands and considers truthful, and yet it's so difficult to put into practice. It's a wonderful thing that I can find these kinds of reviews to not only read a good book, but also be reminded of the essential aspects of life. Splendid write-up!


message 4: by Fionnuala (new)

Fionnuala I love your conclusion, Seemita!


Kathleen Ambrose Thank you for your review. You put into words what I could not. Such a precious book. (Just finished it today.)


Seemita Agnieszka wrote: "Charming, nostalgic review, Simi. Loved reading your thoughts... And so glad to hear from you after a while :)"

Thanks, my dear Agna! Too much understated beauty in this gem; I felt lifted like a feather in a happy air. Hope you are doing good. Hugs :)


Seemita Ilse wrote: "A delicate balm calming the heart unconscious of its unrest, your last paragraph is poetry in itself, Seemita. The second quote rings so true and beautifully phrases what we sooner or later all lea..."

Most days, Ilse, I wake up to come across something that makes me calmer, indicating a kind of knot in my being that was always there but wasn't nagging. These knots, when untangled, bring me to realisations that sound a lot like that last para. I am glad it resonated with you.


Seemita Florencia wrote: "I'm so grateful for this review since it brought to my attention what it seems to be a truly thought-provoking book. Words that may bring solace and allow us to move on. The second quote you includ..."

This book explores those idle moments of life where its essence runs the clearest. So, even in something as certain as uncertainty and death, we find something new, and affirming. I am happy that you caught a few of these reflections in my review, Flor.


Seemita Fionnuala wrote: "I love your conclusion, Seemita!"

A derivative of the book, Fio! :)


Seemita Kathleen wrote: "Thank you for your review. You put into words what I could not. Such a precious book. (Just finished it today.)"

Thank you for your kind words, Kathleen. This is, indeed, a precious book.


message 11: by Samra (new)

Samra Yusuf I am truly enticed to take a walk along Pico,thrugh your eyes,the fields look promising,thank you for this Seemita :)


message 12: by Jaidee (new)

Jaidee Gorgeous little review. So nice to see you Seemita :)


Seemita Samra wrote: "I am truly enticed to take a walk along Pico,thrugh your eyes,the fields look promising,thank you for this Seemita :)"

The fields are promising, so are the gardens and the alleys, the houses and the people, Samra. Hope you have a memorable time with them.


Seemita Jaidee wrote: "Gorgeous little review. So nice to see you Seemita :)"

Thank you, dear Jaidee. It is indeed wonderful to interact again :)


message 15: by Laysee (new)

Laysee Beautiful review, Seemita. Pleased you took this healing walk in autumn.


Seemita Laysee wrote: "Beautiful review, Seemita. Pleased you took this healing walk in autumn."

Thank you, dear Laysee. We need our fixes from time to time, don't we? :)


message 17: by Fran (new)

Fran Wonderful review, Seemita!


message 18: by Hanneke (new)

Hanneke So happy to read your beautiful review, dear Seemita, and so glad to see you around once again.


Seemita Fran wrote: "Wonderful review, Seemita!"

Many thanks, Fran! How are you doing?


Seemita Hanneke wrote: "So happy to read your beautiful review, dear Seemita, and so glad to see you around once again."

Pleasure is all mine, Hanneke. Thank you very much for your validation. I hope you are doing well and reading to your heart's content.


message 21: by Dolors (new)

Dolors Oh dear, I think I have been missing your reviews for a while, Simi. They don't appear in my updates feed, so I will be paying regular visits to your profile from now on!
This review is a source of peace, serenity and contemplation on the vulnerability of life, enhanced by the Japanese understanding of life, death and impermance of beauty. A treat to finally read your flowing prose, I hadn't realized how thirsty I was until I started drinking!


Seemita Dolors wrote: "Oh dear, I think I have been missing your reviews for a while, Simi. They don't appear in my updates feed, so I will be paying regular visits to your profile from now on!
This review is a source of..."


Hey, D! So, so sorry for being this terribly late in replying to your comment; my visits to the site have been painfully curtailed in the last few months. But I am glad to come and find a Dolors comment any day :)

This book was indeed serene. In the chaotic times that I am operating out of, this was just the kind of reminder I needed - subtle but standing firm on the essence of slowing down and being grateful in life. Am I not glad for such mirror-like books?


message 23: by Alcornell (new) - added it

Alcornell This must be the book which will introduce me quietly to Pico Ayer. of course Nara, Japan is the place to open a contemplation on Autumn. Loved the warmth of your beautiful review. Thank you for both planting a directional sign & opening the door to a consideration of endings that offers beauty and consolation. This is going on my list now.


Seemita Alcornell wrote: "This must be the book which will introduce me quietly to Pico Ayer. of course Nara, Japan is the place to open a contemplation on Autumn. Loved the warmth of your beautiful review. Thank you for bo..."

Absolutely delighted to see you have added this book to your TBR list, Linda! I am a fan of Pico Iyer; he is a savant who can give me new eyes without disturbing my footing one bit. He is so effortless that sometimes, I feel like I am talking to a wise, elderly person from my family, face-to-face. The pretensions are tosed out of the window and the only the bare essentials find audience. I hope you enjoy Iyer's soothing prose and Nara's simplicity when you meet both.


message 25: by Sookie (new)

Sookie I haven't read Pico Iyer in almost a decade. Planning to pick this up hopefully in near future.


Seemita Sookie wrote: "I haven't read Pico Iyer in almost a decade. Planning to pick this up hopefully in near future."

If you have enjoyed Iyer in the past, Sookie, this should cement your reception to him. An evocative canvas.


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