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Review: Autumn - Ali Smith

Updated: Sep 5, 2018

Genre: literary fiction Published: Hamish Hamilton, october 2016

My rating: 3/5 stars

“Language is like poppies. It just takes something to churn the earth round them up, and when it does up come the sleeping words, bright red, fresh, blowing about.”

Autumn has gotten much praise over the last year and has basicly been dubbed a piece of art in many reviews. Obviously, my expectations were high and I could not wait to see my opinion on such a bold statement.

The answers is more complex than I thought before writing this. I can objectively see the quality and craftmanship, but I personally did not enjoy it. Autumn is utterly original in concept, in fact, the idea of a quartet of novels thematically set around the seasons, is brilliant in al its simplicity. The novel has a lot of thought put in it, and can be interpreted in many different ways. This means that everybody will have a vastly different experience with it, for better or worse. In my case, I feel like it was the latter.

In many ways, Autumn is all over the place. It is at times purposfully incoherent and at others just plain boring. We spend most of the book in the heads of the two main characters in the "autumn" of their lives, thinking back on past times. Interwoven in this is the political setting of "post-Brexit UK", which was the reason I picked the book up in the first place. There are paragraphs that are poigniant and briliantly worded, but they are sometimes lost without context. I love books that set up a framework, and make the readers figure out this meaning and context themselves, but in this case, the framework was so shaky that there was little to guide you. It's a little like a very experimental piece of art: you go looking for a deeper meaning, because you know there is suppose to be one, not because you organically find it.

For example, I was drawing parallels between the story of Daniel and Elisabeth, and the political sitution, but maybe more because I was looking for it. In reality I don't know if I was supposed to, because the connections on paper were (pardon the pun) paperthin.

It was an interesting reading experience, and probably good "food for thought". I feel like this is one of those cases where no two people will read the same book, because it heavily relies on what the reader brings to the table, interpretationwise. I had a good time thinking about it, but as a novel however, I have to say I didn't necessarily enjoy it.


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