Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Autumn, by Ali Smith

Billed as the first installment of her Seasonal Quartet, Smith’s novel is much like the lost collage, Pauline Body’s “Scandal 63,” that is at the center of the work.  For an American reader, it probably helps to have some knowledge of post-Brexit England and  British pop-art history – or to have watched the episode on PBS’s The Crown that dealt with the 1960s era scandal known as the Profumo Affair.  Daniel Gluck is 101 and on his deathbed as the book opens.  More than twenty years earlier, he and his very young next door neighbor, Elisabeth, then eight, develop a close and unlikely friendship.  Elisabeth, now 32, has not seen him in many years, but when her mother tells her that he has been taken to Maltings Care Providers, she rushes home for a last visit.  The book (although 260 pages long) is brief and episodic, with large type and a lot of white space.  It shifts back and forth between decades.  It lingers in the mind after the last page as only a really good book does.  I look forward to her newly released Winter.  260 pp. 

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