BOOK REVIEW: ALI SMITH – SUMMER

Today it’s another review and it’s a big one! It’s the dazzling Summer, the last season in Ali Smith’s wonderful and brilliant seasonal quartet.

I love Ali Smith. I love these books. They’ve been a landmark of our social, political history over the past four years. But now, summer has arrived. What’s Summer about? Here’s the blurb:

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.

Like all blurbs to Ali Smith’s books, it doesn’t give much away… but enough to intrigue you. This is one of my most anticipated books of the year. I just love this seasonal quartet and I’m sad to see it come to its full conclusion. Like Spring, I read Summer in one weekend – I couldn’t put it down.

There’s a lot to love in this novel. It’s split into two: the present where we have Sacha and her troublesome brother Robert and in the past we have another brother and sister in another summer. Of course, Summer was published in the middle of a pandemic and that’s a big theme in the novel. From PPE, isolation, social distancing, the government, the economy, toilet roll, etc. Can you imagine how different this novel would be without any of this happening? I think that’s the true beauty of these novels – she’s writing them in real time and then published quite quickly. She’s a true chronicler of our times.

I think that’s just so bloody brilliant – how she writes them in real time and then it’s published! In an essay in The Guardian, she talks about Dickens and how he would write in volumes and quickly be published and that’s exactly what she’s doing! Like I said, a true chronicler of our times. I think it’s a very special and rare thing, especially in publishing. These four books, these four seasons, these four tumultuous years, are landmarks in our history, benchmarks of our history.

The writing is just as brilliant as ever in Summer. It’s funny, dark, heartfelt, heartbreaking, dazzling. I loved the focus on the relationship between brother/sister, sister/brother. There’s flashbacks and old characters from the previous books which took me a while to work out(!) but once I did, I fully appreciated what she was doing. I loved the use of Einstein in the novel, too. There were so many quotes that I loved, especially this one, which I think sums up summer perfectly:

“And Summer’s surely really all about being an imagined end. We head for it instinctually like it must mean something. We’re always looking for it, looking to it, heading towards it all year, the way a horizon holds the promise of a sunset. We’re always looking for the full open leaf, the open warmth, the promise that we’ll one day soon surely be able to lie back and have summer done to us; one day soon we’ll be treated well by the world.”

!

I just loved that quote and I love it when she does those ‘!’ in the novel – just brilliant. And that’s it – summer has been and gone, just like the past three seasons. Ali Smith is a national treasure and like I said, these four books are something very special – they are our history, benchmarks of history, a treasure capsule already dug up but books we will go back to again and again – just like the seasons, the cycle continues, the leaves continue to fall, the snow starts to fall, flowers start to bloom, and there, in the distance, the sun starts to rise.

One of my books of the year and one of my all-time favourite series. Ali Smith, you marvel.  I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Have you read Summer? Are you a fan of the seasonal quartet? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you,

Corey.

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