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.)

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Review: Spring

  • Title: Spring
  • Author: Ali Smith
  • Genre: Contemporary Fiction
  • Year: 2019

This is the third book in Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet. While it’s titled Spring, it’s mostly set in autumn.

It follows two storylines, one focusing on Richard, a TV & Film Director who has recently lost his dear friend Paddy. Then we have Brittany Hall (a.k.a Brit), who works as a security guard in a detention center for immigrants. And similar to the trope in Winter, there’s Florence, a mysterious 12-year-old girl, an outsider whose spontaneous apparition causes changes in both the lives of Richard and Brit. As usual, current political events were intertwined with the characters’ personal lives.

So far, all of the books in the quartet have been challenging. But Spring has been a bit more complex because at first because I couldn’t find any visible connection between the storylines.

I believe that one of the purposes of this novel was that it’s time we realize what’s happening not only in the UK but in the world. The injustice refugees face by simply moving to a new country, searching for a better life for themselves and for their children. And I say “one of the purposes” because I’m sure Ali Smith wanted to also transmit sub-messages regarding today’s media entertainment and use of the internet and technology. These references were scattered and apparently unlinked, but that’s just Ali Smith being herself.

Another aspect I found interesting was the symbology of clouds since they’re often mentioned in both storylines. I came across an interview that Ali Smith did for Penguin UK, which you can read here. But I think this quote from the interview summarizes best the meaning clouds have in the book:

“The shifting structures of things is always playing out above our heads, right there if we need to remember how to change things, how things can change, what a difference taking the air makes, or referring ourselves back to the elements – of which we’re also made.”

Ali Smith

Overall, spring as a season is a time of revival, flourishing, and awakening — thus, reflecting the hopeful outlook of this story.