Summer by Ali Smith review – a remarkable end to an extraordinary quartet
I’m not sure I’ve ever looked forward to a book as eagerly as Ali Smith’s Summer. This is the final instalment of her seasonal quartet, a series that has already been celebrated by reviewers and readers alike. A vast and dizzyingly ambitious project – each book is written and published in just a few months – the novels seek to be as up to date as it is possible for literature to be. With the Booker-shortlisted Autumn published in October 2016, Winter in November 2017, Spring in March 2019, and now Summer, the four books are both independent novels and work together as a complex, interrelated collage of reflections on the way we live now.
Smith’s series has become a central part of my cultural life, one of the tools with which I attempt to read the moment, both a framing device and a lesson in defence against the dark arts. She says: things are bad, life is complicated; but here are Chaplin’s films and Pauline Boty’s paintings, here is Tacita Dean and Barbara Hepworth, here is Shakespeare and Dickens and Katherine Mansfield. She says: yes there’s Brexit, but here are deep shared ties of history and culture; yes there’s indefinite detention and the climate crisis, but here are people willing to lose their freedom, even their lives, to protest against them; yes there’s loss and loneliness, but here are small moments of connection, of recognition, of dignity. And yet so frantic were the headlines of 2020, so ...
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