I’ve been curious to see how British literature would be changing post-Brexit. Zadie Smith’s Swing Time begins to address this shift in Britain post-2010, but it foreshadows Brexit. Therefore, I was interested to see how Ali Smith’s Autumn would be incorporating Brexit into its main plot. I had heard buzz about her seasonal cycle, but had not made the plunge until my end-of-school-year library binge saw this and the next book make its way into my basket. I am really, really glad I gave this a read. I’m really eager to continue reading the cycle, as well as more Smith novels.
This novel has three distinct timelines: one involves Daniel in an afterworld that strangely resembles a coastline. He is magically young and haunted by people of his past; one involves Elisabeth, a woman born in 1984 and now struggling as a young adult to reconcile her perceptions of the world with Britain as it exists today; the other concerns Elisabeth as a child and teenager who has kept touch with Daniel, an older neighbor who has dabbled in music and is gay. The stories converge as the world shifts in a way that no one can quite understand or reconcile.
I realize that this may sound boring or slow, but the prose is really good. And there are moments that describe the post-Brexit world that will resonate, because they are familiar. I very much recommend this book if you are interested in a state-of-the-world kind of novel and current affairs. Smith also relies on the autumnal image, including John Keats’ poetry, to reinforce the theme of seasons and change. I’ll be interested to see where Smith takes the cycle next.
Cross-posted to my blog.