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: Winter

This year I decided to write the four seasons with books. Thus, at the beginning of each of the previous seasons (Spring, Summer and Autumn), I selected books from my shelves whose titles begin with the letters of the name of the season in question. The time has finally come to do the same for Winter!

When I had the idea for this sort of series, I didn’t expect that it would be so difficult to find on my shelves books with titles beginning with certain letters. In order not to pick Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier again, I had to cheat slightly this time, as I’ve done in past seasons for other reasons.

 

Winter by Ali Smith

Told from the perspectives of Sophia and Art, her son, this book, which is part of Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet, delves into how dissimilar world views can cause rifts between family members. Art was supposed to take his former partner, Charlotte, to spend Christmas at his mother’s house. As she left him, he decided to pay a young woman to go with him. Although the plot is not outstanding, the characters are compelling. Continue reading

‘Winter’ by Ali Smith

My rating: 4 stars

The first book I read by Ali Smith, Autumn, left me with mixed feelings and not particularly eager to read more of her work. Nevertheless, various good reviews convinced me to give Winter, the second instalment in her seasonal quartet, a try. And I’m glad that I did! This novel shows how dissimilar world views can cause rifts between family members. Still, despite all differences, common old memories can make a family come together again, even if the renewal of that bond requires external help.

The narration is done mainly from the perspectives of Sophia and her son, Art. Sophia is over 60 years old and hasn’t spoken with her older politically-minded sister, Iris, in the last thirty years. Art (short for Arthur) is a nature writer for a blog who, at the beginning, acts like a selfish bastard with no empathy. The parts of the book told from Art’s point of view are more gripping at first. However, when we learn more about Sophia’s past and her personality starts being clearer, they become equally compelling.

Art had a partner, Charlotte, with whom he used to have heated political discussions. She seriously cared about what was happening around her, while Art didn’t. Throughout the book there are, in fact, various references to many current affairs: humans being replaced by machines, EU citizens in the UK not knowing what it’s going to happen to them after Brexit, refugees crossing the Mediterranean, climate change, etc. Continue reading

Book Haul – September / October 2018

We are less than three months away from the end of the year, and I still have quite a few books left to read in order to complete my ‘EU still 28’ reading project. Last month, I realised that I needed to buy some more of the books on my predetermined list. I obviously also took the opportunity to order a couple of other ones in preparation for winter, although I’m not normally a seasonal reader. Every excuse is a good one when it comes to justify buying books, though!

Below are the nine newest additions to my shelves:

 

Tula by Jurgis Kuncinas

Written by the Lithuanian author Jurgis Kuncinas, Tula takes place in a poor neighbourhood in Vilnius. The narrator dwells on the fringes of society and meets other various curious inhabitants of the same area. I don’t know much more about this book, which I believe also involves a love story. Continue reading