According to people that know Ali Smith’s work is normally quite upsetting, I haven’t read any of her stuff before though. I did find Autumn a little sad at times but it didn’t destroy me emotionally like Never Let Me Go did*. Maybe that’s it. Maybe that book has permanently damaged me…in the best possible way.
Anyway, Autumn is about Brexit. Which is a bit off putting because that wound hasn’t quite healed yet imo. And our protagonist, Elisabeth (and our author) seem to feel the same way. And there’s a recurring theme throughout the book that the country is divided, and tensions are increasing.
All across the country, there was misery and rejoicing.
Elisabeth is in her thirties, working as a lecturer for not enough money, in an overpriced flat in London. Smith very accurately portrays modern Britain. The lack of job security, the impact of government cuts, and the lack of progression, and the feeling that everything is just getting a little bit worse. There’s a scene early on of here trying to renew her passport in the Post Office that felt painfully true to life.
At the same time Daniel is at the end of his life, and remembering his childhood, his sister, his lost love through his unconscious dreams. He thinks back to visiting his sister in Germany in the 1940’s, and how she is frozen in his memory at the age of 21. It’s interesting to look back at a time when Europe was so divided, and violently so. And to discuss Brexit at the same time.
I enjoyed the book. It wasn’t life-changing but it was a good read. I am planning to pick up Winter when it comes out.
*By Ishiguro who has just won the Nobel Prize which is kind of awesome!