‘Autumn’ by Ali Smith

Autumn book coverI liked it so much that I sat down and straightaway reread Autumn by Ali Smith [London: Penguin, 2017]. Short-listed for this year’s Man Booker, what’s not to like about it? Apart from Smith’s gift for language, patterning, sound games, literary allusions (two in the first two lines) and alliterations, reminding and moving to and fro with such a light touch, the front cover of my copy has a wonderful David Hockney and the inside back cover is illustrated by that fascinating yet too little known female British Pop artist, Pauline Boty. If the Tate do a Boty retrospective I hope Ali Smith will be invited to open it. She also deserves credit for the first ‘Brexit’ novel and, had I been revising my dissertation on the influence of Margaret Thatcher on contemporary fiction, I would need to include this quotation.

… it’s not just that we’ve been rhetorically and practically encouraging the opposite of integration for immigrants to this country. It’s that we’ve been rhetorically and practically encouraging ourselves not to integrate. We’ve been doing this as a matter of self-policing since Thatcher taught us to be selfish and not just to think but to believe that there’s no such thing as society. (pp. 111-2)

This may be a sentimental story but so well written that it never becomes mawkish. Smith does have that perfect ear for the melody of language and for the counterpoint of dialogue. This is in contention with only one other book for my pick of the year.

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