How the Seasonal Quartet by Ali Smith Ultimately Disappointed Me

My first foray into Ali Smith’s work was with Autumn, the first published novel in the Scottish author’s Seasonal Quartet. After finishing reading it, I was not eager to pick up any other of her books, but many positive reviews of Winter convinced me to continue to read this collection of novels. It ended up being the correct decision, seeing that I subsequently enjoyed both Winter and Spring. Sadly, I cannot say the same about Summer, which I’ve recently DNFed.

One of the aims of the Seasonal Quartet is to record the times we live in. For that reason, there’s an obvious immediacy to all of the books, current affairs playing an essential role in them. As much as I enjoy books that deal with politics and social issues, they only work for me when at least the characters are attention-grabbing. And that, unfortunately, was not being the case of Summer.

 

Four novels for four seasons

I was left with mixed feelings after finishing reading Autumn. It is essentially a collection of fragments focusing on how 101-year-old Daniel influenced the life of the much younger Elisabeth, plus various references to current events, including the Brexit referendum, the situation of refugees, the lack of job security, and the difficulty in finding an affordable house. There’s no real plot being developed. The book mainly only comprises the characters’ thoughts and reminiscences about their lives. Reading it both bored me to death and left me in awe of how well Ali Smith can craft sentences. Continue reading

Writing the Seasons with Books: Autumn

This year, instead of recommending books that some people may deem appropriate to read during a specific season, I’m writing the four seasons with books. I take a look at my shelves and select books with titles beginning with the letters of the name of the season that is just starting. And the time has come to welcome autumn! Temperatures have started to slowly drop. The leaves of the trees are getting ready to fall.

 

Autumn by Ali Smith

This was the first book that I read by Ali Smith. It’s not easy to describe what Autumn is about, as it mixes a couple of elements. Not only does it compile recollections about how 101-year-old Daniel Gluck, who lives in a care home, influenced Elisabeth Demand’s life, it also alludes to a variety of current events. Brexit, the plight of refugees and various economic issues connect this novel to the time of its writing.

 

Uma Casa na Escuridão by José Luís Peixoto

The Portuguese author José Luís Peixoto penned a hugely implausible story that doesn’t aim to be anything else. The plot of this novel, which hasn’t been translated into English yet as far as I know, is merely used as a way to convey feelings – love, jealousy, fear, suffering and solitude. Although I struggled to finish it, I truly cared for the characters and enjoyed the poetic prose. Continue reading

Authors I Want to Give A Second Chance to

To delve into the work of an author for the first time is both a thrilling and unnerving experience. While to read a book by a writer we are familiar with feels like returning home, to immerse ourselves in the work of an author new to us is a foray into uncharted territory. Although sometimes we end up discovering a new favourite, it is also possible to get highly disappointed. Below are some of the authors whom the only book that I read by didn’t impress me much (I rated it with either 3 or 2 stars), but to whom I want to give a second chance.

 

Ali Smith

I made my first foray into Ali Smith’s work with Autumn, the first book in a planned seasonal quartet. The plot isn’t easy to explain, because it wanders amidst the flow of the characters’ thoughts and reminiscences. It delves into the bond forged between Daniel Gluck and Elisabeth Demand, as well as into some current events, including Brexit. I was left with quite mixed feelings, being both in awe of the way Ali Smith managed to craft some sentences and bored by the lack of plot development.

At first, I thought that I wouldn’t want to read Winter, the second book in this collection of standalones, but so many people have been praising it that I’ve changed my mind. Continue reading

‘Autumn’ by Ali Smith

My rating: 3 stars

Autumn, the first book in a seasonal quartet by Ali Smith, is not easy to describe. I would say it is a compilation of fragments about how 101-year-old Daniel influenced Elisabeth’s life mixed with references to current events. But for the majority of the book, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, it feels like there is no real plot being developed via the flow of the characters’ thoughts and reminiscences about life occurrences.

Daniel Gluck lives in a care home and currently spends most of his time sleeping. Some chapters are reproductions of dreams he is having. He is visited by Elisabeth Demand who pretends to be his granddaughter when in fact they used to be neighbours. She is 32 years old and a contract junior lecturer at a university in London. They first met because, when she was younger, she had to do a homework about a neighbour.

After that, they started spending a lot of time together, and she even called him her unofficial babysitter. They used to speak about art, poetry, books and photography. Those conversations influenced her future life, as she went to study history of art and do her thesis on Pauline Boty, a forgotten female artist from the Pop Art movement, who Daniel had met and adored. Continue reading

Which Book Should I Read Next?

I’m a book monogamist. I tried to read more than one book at a time once, but quickly discovered that I can’t split my attention between two books, since I left one behind and just continued reading the other. So, whenever I’m almost finishing a book, I start thinking about what type of book I am feeling like reading next.

As I’m now unsure about which book to pick up next, I decided to ask for your help! The four books below are the subjects of my uncertainty. All of them sound like books I would like to read sooner rather than later. It would be fantastic if you could take a little time to help me by voting until Sunday in the poll at the bottom of the page (after the books’ blurbs), regardless if you’ve read any of these or not. You may have read and liked one of them, or you may just be curious about my opinion on it.

 

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

“As his tale begins, Orlando is a passionate young nobleman whose days are spent in rowdy revelry, filed with the colourful delights of Queen Elizabeth’s court. By the close, he will have transformed into a modern, thirty-six-year-old woman and three centuries will have passed. Orlando will witness the making of history from its edge, dressing in the flamboyant fashions of each era, following passing customs, and socialising with celebrated artists and writers. Continue reading