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

‘The Underground Railroad’ by Colson Whitehead

My rating: 4 stars

In the Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead tells the story of a slave, Cora, who managed to escape a cotton plantation in 19th century America, while raising stimulating questions about racism, the true meaning of freedom and the importance of education to genuinely achieve liberty. Additionally, wrapped up in these issues, there is a reflection on motherhood from the point of view of a daughter who felt abandoned.

Cora was a slave at the Randall plantation in Georgia when the newly arrived Caesar approached her about running North via the underground railroad – a boxcar pulled by a steam locomotive moving on rails through a tunnel heading to the free states and Canada. In real life, though, the Underground Railroad was a network of safehouses, secret routes and abolitionists who aided escaped slaves. This difference added a pinch of magical realism to a historical fiction novel without overpowering it.

Although Cora is the main character in this novel, we are first introduced to her grandmother, Ajarry, who believed that it was impossible to escape the plantation. It didn’t feel at all illogical to start the book with an overview of Ajarry’s story, seeing that Cora’s first answer to Caesar’s proposal was influenced by her – she refused to flee. Three weeks later, however, she changed her mind. At the time of her first response, she was thinking as her grandmother, while afterwards she was assessing the situation from the point of view of her mother. Continue reading