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

‘Spring’ by Ali Smith

My rating: 4 stars

The third stand-alone novel in Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet suits its title. Spring, just as the season it is named after, is a book about the need for new beginnings and being hopeful even when facing a dire situation. References to Brexit, Trump and the downsides of social media are spread throughout the book, making it not only a pertinent story for the times we live in, but also an important record for those who will read it in the future.

Spring is written in the third person mostly from two different points of view, those of Richard and Brittany, who end up meeting at a train station in the north of Scotland. Richard Lease is a TV and film director who is struggling emotionally, which is conveyed via a suggestive erratic type of narration when he is introduced. The woman he loved, Paddy, has recently died. He remembers her with immense and poignant admiration.

Richard visited Paddy not long before she passed away. Although she was already ill, they discussed his next project. He was working on an adaptation of a book, set in 1922, about the fictional relationship between Katherine Mansfield and Rainer Maria Rilke, two authors who never truly met. Richard didn’t like the script nor the book, but his visit to Paddy, with whom he had worked in the past, inspired him to suggest some changes to the adaptation, which are swiftly ignored. Continue reading

Book Haul – March 2021

March felt like a good month to get more books, though since last year I’ve been trying to read all of the books that I own before buying new ones. This haul consists of both novels and short story collections, almost all of them written by women. Some have been on my wish list for ages, others are more recent discoveries.

 

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Inspired by Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story of Griet, a servant girl who becomes the student and muse of the Dutch painter. Scandal erupts when he gives her his wife’s pearl earrings to wear for a portrait. I’ve been meaning to read this historical fiction novel for ages and hopefully won’t be disappointed.

 

Salt Slow by Julia Armfield

Julia Armfield’s debut collection of short stories is supposedly filled with lyrical prose and dark humour. How could I resist buying it? Various feelings are explored in these tales: isolation, obsession, love and revenge. Continue reading