Review: Summer

Summer is the fourth book in Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet. Once again, I feel that my reviewing skills won’t do justice to what Smith has accomplished. But I’ll try nonetheless.

Here’s the synopsis: In the present, Sacha knows the world’s in trouble. Her brother Robert just is trouble. Their mother and father are having trouble. Meanwhile the world’s in meltdown – and the real meltdown hasn’t even started yet. In the past, a lovely summer. A different brother and sister know they’re living on borrowed time. This is a story about people on the brink of change. They’re family, but they think they’re strangers. So: where does family begin? And what do people who think they’ve got nothing in common have in common? Summer.

Here we come full circle. Previous seasons become connected with the plot presented in Summer. The characters intertwine one way or another, allowing us to learn more about them. Such is the case with Daniel Gluck. In Autumn he’s presented as Elisabeth’s neighbor. Here, however, we learn about his past and his family. (I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet.)

What I admire most about Ali Smith is her cleverness with words and phrases and how she plays with their meaning. She combines relevant events from the present and the past with the characters’ lives. World War II, Brexit, global warming, immigration, Covid-19, and sibling relationships are some of the mentioned topics. Though the book is not extensive, and her writing is direct, it doesn’t mean it’s an easy read.

This brings me to my next point. It felt scattered at times. With so much going on, new characters are introduced while previous ones are mentioned, it felt hard to keep up.

However, I’m giving it five stars. Because that’s what this book deserves, and the quartet as a whole too. I can’t wait to read the Companion piece released earlier this year. Because who else besides her would’ve thought to include a fifth book into a quartet?

I’ve been reading each book according to its season, and if I could read more seasonal books written by Ali Smith during the years to come, I certainly would.

“Look at me walking down a road in summer thinking about the transience of summer.

Even while I’m right at the heart of it I just can’t get to the heart of it.”

Summer, Ali Smith
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