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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 fam 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.


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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 fam 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.

30 review for Summer

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard

    Summer brother autumn sister Time and time again are gone Out of season I will find her With time’s fallen leaves behind her Every time I sing this song Summer uses the characters of Autumn and Winter to explore the themes of Spring (while also making it clear that those themes ran through the full quartet) through a new shared experience for us all. Featuring: Wendy, Elisabeth, Zoe, Daniel, Hannah, Adrienne Albert, Klein, Pauline Boty - from Autumn Charlotte, Art, Iris, Sophia (in memory), Barbara Summer brother autumn sister Time and time again are gone Out of season I will find her With time’s fallen leaves behind her Every time I sing this song Summer uses the characters of Autumn and Winter to explore the themes of Spring (while also making it clear that those themes ran through the full quartet) through a new shared experience for us all. Featuring: Wendy, Elisabeth, Zoe, Daniel, Hannah, Adrienne Albert, Klein, Pauline Boty - from Autumn Charlotte, Art, Iris, Sophia (in memory), Barbara Hepworth - from Winter Hero, Katherine Mansfield- from Spring We learn: - Why Sophia hid that stone under the shoes in her wardrobe and (and how by doing so she inadvertently saved Daniel’s most valuable possession and - this may be a stretch on my behalf - his life). - What inspired the lyrics of the one-hit wonder Daniel penned (the copyright fees for which, sourced by Elisabeth paid his nursing home fees) and the story behind who co-wrote the song. - Who lead Daniel to his love for Chaplin - Why Boubat’s “petite fille aux feuilles mortes jardin du Luxembourg Paris 1946” and the leaf covered Autumn girl came to mean so much to Daniel, and is so key to the Quartet. -How a graphologist foretold Daniel’s key role across the whole quartet (I showed him a piece in my own hand and he said “you are a man for many seasons’): with lover and child in Winter, lover and father of neighbour in Spring, and sister’s great grandchildren in Summer. And we find: How Einstein visited Cromer (see my picture above); how not being Einstein saved a future filmmaker's life - and how ein stein both reunites a mother and a baby, and a father and his son How Einstein with his exploration of time and space, and his appearance "Charlie Chaplin with the brow of Shakespeare", and his fleeing from persecution captures the entire theme of the quartet. And how another Albert also links Autumn to Summer. ——————————————————— Comparisons of recurring themes and concepts in the books: SA4A All of the books feature the firm SA4A (Smith, Ali, Quartet, Autumn) which has served as a symbol of the threat of faceless and almost unknown multinationals. In Autumn, we see SA4A as a quasi-police private security firm (whose actual purposes we only discover later) In Winter Art works for their entertainments division to enforce copyright on emerging artists. In Spring book Britanny works for them at a UK Immigration Removal Centre. In Summer Robert's mother's door is forced by bailiffs from their power branch and we are also told the firm also operates a government approved service to busload homeless people down to London Cover Artwork A wrap around cover featuring a David Hockney seasonal picture of the same tunnel of trees: respectively: Autumn - “Early November Tunnel”, Winter - “Winter Tunnel with Snow” and Spring “Late Spring Tunnel”. Summer has “Tunnel 2” Endpaper artwork Endpaper artwork by a key female artist featured in the book: Autumn - Pauline Boty’s “The Only Blonde in the World”; Winter - Barbara Hepworth “Winter Solstice” and Spring - Tacita Dean’s “Why Cloud". Summer has Lorenza Mazetti's "Self Portrait" Past Decades A concentration on the modern day resonances of a historic 20th Century decade: Autumn - 1960s, Winter - 1980s, Spring - 1920s. Summer features the 1940s. Female artists from the decade Autumn has Pauline Boty Winter has Barbara Hepworth Spring has Katherine Mansfield Summer has the Italian (and post war immigrant to London) filmmaker Lorenza Mazzetti. Interestingly whereas the other artists all died tragically young - Boty of cancer, Hepworth of a fire in her studio, Mansfield of TB. Mazzetti lived until 92 - dying this very year (2020). However she (as we find in the book) avoided an even earlier tragic Einstein related death in the Holocaust. Art influencing characters Actual works of art of the artist figuring in the book and sparking a character’s imagination In Autumn Elisabeth looks at a book of Boty’s paintings; in Winter Art’s mother views a Hepworth sculpture (I believe “Nesting Stones”) owned by his father; in Spring Richard visits a gallery to view Dean’s work. 
 In Summer Charlotte watches Lorenza Mazetti's "Together" Contemporary events Of course the key idea of the Quartet is the coverage of immediately contemporary events woven through the text - but each book has a concentration on key overarching themes: Autumn - the Brexit vote, Winter - Trump's election, Spring - the issue of borders (both the Irish border and those erected to deter migrations) Summer - of course has COVID-19 and the continuing hostile immigration regime. It even (given it was the week prior to the book going for advanced proof printing) has George Floyd’s tragic death. A link between past political actions from the crucial decade and contemporary events This was a crucial part of the concept of seasonality that Smith set out to explore when she commenced the quartet the concept that our real energy, our real history, is cyclic in continuance and at core, rather than consecutive and how closely to contemporaneousness a finished book might be able to be in the world, and yet how it could also be, all through, very much about stratified, cyclic time In Autumn very deliberate parallels are drawn between the Profumo scandal and the Brexit vote – the concept of the lies of those in power. 

In Winter the environmental and climate-change activism of Charlotte (Art’s ex-girlfriend) and the refugee involvement of the modern day Iris are linked directly to the Silent-Spring inspired environmental activism of the commune where Iris lives many years before and her role in the Greenham Common protests. In Spring the Irish border complications to the Brexit issue are linked to the death of Michael Collins in 1922. 
 In Summer we see the immigrant camps of today and those of the 1940s (in particular that in which Daniel Gluck is interned. But most importantly of all Smith explores how COVID has given us a new shared experience of lockdown. Rhythmic chapters An rhythmical chapter, clearly designed to be read aloud: Autumn - the famous “All across the country …” chapter which Smith seemed to use in most of her readings; Winter the opening “ ….. is dead” chapter; Spring has two We Want ..” chapters (one opening and the other voiced by technology giants) Summer begins with a "so?" chapter - capturing the way in which most people just shrug their shoulders at increasing injustice. Shakespeare A key link to a main Shakespeare plays (as well as an opening and seasonally linked Shakespearean Epigraphs and links to other plays). The main plays are all one of Shakespeare's late romances: Autumn - The Tempest, Winter Cymbeline, Spring – Pericles. Summer features - The Winter's Tale. And the Epigraph is "O, she's warm" (from that play) Dickens A key link to a Dickens work: Autumn – A Tale of Two Cities, Winter – A Christmas Carol; Spring - The Story of Richard Doubledick and Summer is both David Copperfield and the Haunted Man (which also gives the book the epigraph "Lord, keep my memory green" Dickens Opening Lines Autumn starts: "It was the worst of times, it was the worst of time" A Tale of Two Cities starts "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" Winter starts "God was dead: to begin with" A Christmas Carol starts: "Marley was dead, to begin with" Spring starts "Now what we don't want is facts" Hard Times starts "NOW, what I want is, Facts" Summer starts “Everybody said: so?” Just like The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain And then the next chapter starts “Whether I shall turn out to be the heroine of my own life, Sacha's mother says" David Copperfield starts "Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show" Eduardo Boubat An reference to Eduardo Boubat’s “petite fille aux feuilles mortes jardin du Luxembourg Paris 1946”. A photograph which (as the opening song shows and as is confirmed by this book) surely is dear to Daniel as it reminds him of his beloved Sister Hannah. In Autumn Daniel remembers the postcard of it that he bought in Paris in the 1980s. In Winter, Sophie - the recipient we later realise of the postcard is reminded of the postcard by the disembodied head she starts seeing In Spring, a disembodied voice (perhaps taken, as we later realise is much of the book, from Florence’s Hot Air book) says “I’m the child who’s been buried in leaves” with a later reference to “children with clothes as ragged as suits of old leaves”. In Summer we get Yeah and you with your the day will come when we’ll all be wearing leaves instead of clothes vision of the world, Robert said. It will, Sacha said. We’ll have to change everything. And leaves really matter. TV relationships Set alongside the literary references, relationships with TV stars from older years: In Autumn Wendy participates in a game show and forms a relationship with her minor celebrity participant (a former child TV star); in Winter Art’s step-father was a sitcom star; In Spring Richard, is an ex- Play for Today Director for TV and meets Paddy, his muse, confidant, closest friend and one-time (actually make that a double - two-time) lover through their collaboration as Director and writer. In Summer Sacha's mother's one moment of fame as an actress was in an old TV advert for washing-up liquid. A Love of and interest in Charlie Chaplin Both his work and his own life, introduced in each book by Daniel but then passed on in turn to other characters by those who Daniel infused with his love for Chaplin In Summer we realise that this love originated with Hannah - and that perhaps Daniel took it on from her. The symbolism of commons and fences The image that Ali Smith first thought of when she envisaged the Seasonal quartet was a fence - and as commented in my opening remarks the key for Ali Smith throughout this quartet was to emphasise that "nothing is not connected" and that "division is a lie" ie we have much in common. Autumn Elisabeth’s mother Wendy is shocked by a fence erected on a common near her home (the fence serving a metaphor for Brexit ... at least in Autumn). Winter Iris chains herself to a fence at the very start of the Greenham Commons protests. Spring the fences are in the Immigration centre and the replacement of the commons by enclosures was the first stage of the Highland clearances which feature in the novel. Summer Grace looking for an old English church she visited three decades ago .. came instead to a massive wire fence that seemed to block off most of the common. The same fence we assume as Wendy found in Autumn with its purpose now revealed. Internment of Aliens/Asylum Seekers Something which (as I commented above) increasingly to me seems to be the crucial theme of the entire quartet. Autumn One of the nurses tells Elisabeth about Daniel's childhood and him voluntarily joining his father in an internment camp in the war. Wendy's attack on the SA4A fence at the end of the book is prompted by her hearing an article on children being sent to adult centres. Winter Iris has returned from Greece where she is working among asylum seekers - and at Sophia's house she discusses his, while Lux (posing as Charlotte) discussed her own family's life as asylum seekers in Canada and subsequently in her case as an immigrant in the UK. Spring Much of the book is set in an Immigration Removal Centre, where of course Brit works, Florence visits. We have the Auld Alliance and their work. Summer A large chunk of the book is set in the internment camp where Daniel meets Cyril Klein (as well as two famous life artists - Fred Uhlman and Kurt Schwitters), Hannah works helping people fleeing Vichy France, Grace walks past the SA4A internment camp which was the same one Wendy attacked, Iris brings her help of asylum seekers back to Sophia's old house where Charlotte joins her as does Hero (from the centre where Brit worked), And of course with lockdown we all have a shared experience of internment. Time Containers When discussing the quartet, Smith commented But we're time-containers, we hold all our diachrony, our pasts and our futures (and also the pasts and futures of all the people who made us and who in turn we'll help to make) in every one of our consecutive moments / minutes / days / years 

In Autumn this concept was captured particularly in Daniel’s dreams and his memories of his fleeing from Nazi Germany and of his brilliant sister killed in the holocaust. 
 In Winter the concept is even more explicit when discussing Art’s visions of the floating coastline, Lux explains what she calls her own coastline. In Spring the idea is I think best captured in the almost interminable 11.29 on the railway platform in Kingussie as Richard reflects on much of his life Is a single minute really this long. Is the clock that’s broken the one inside him In Summer not only do we get the reappearance of Hannah but we get this passage (with a literal time container) Time is dimensional. Robert Greenlaw has just demonstrated not just the curve and dimensionality of time but also its multiple nature and given himself a TOTAL HIGH by affixing irremovably a piece of curved and dimensional time into the curved dimension of a mortal hand. Heh. ! The song he’d sing if he could still sing would be about how time is more than one thing, time is glass and sand, time is brittle and fluid, time is fragile and tough, time is sharp and blunt, time is now and ancient, time is before and after, time is smooth and rough and if you try to remove your attachment to time, time will laugh out loud and take the skin off you. And of course via Einstein an exploration of the nature of time and space.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    1 So you finally got a copy of the fourth book? Uh huh... A bit behind the times, aren't you? Summer's nearly over. Shh. Can't you see I'm reading! Would have thought you'd have been quicker off the mark, is all... Sorry, it's just that I've reached the page where there's a stone I recognise. One of the Stones, is it? Wow! It's a Hepworth marble stone, not a bloody rolling stone. What the... Never mind. Go to sleep. Barbara Hepworth …………………………………… 2 You look like you had a bad night. No one makes me not sle 1 So you finally got a copy of the fourth book? Uh huh... A bit behind the times, aren't you? Summer's nearly over. Shh. Can't you see I'm reading! Would have thought you'd have been quicker off the mark, is all... Sorry, it's just that I've reached the page where there's a stone I recognise. One of the Stones, is it? Wow! It's a Hepworth marble stone, not a bloody rolling stone. What the... Never mind. Go to sleep. Barbara Hepworth …………………………………… 2 You look like you had a bad night. No one makes me not sleep like Ali Smith does. That doesn't sound good... It's not a criticism, not remotely! All these negatives are confusing me at this early hour. Well, she crammed so many world issues into the first part of this book that I've been awake all night worrying about them. Pretty heavy! Like that stone you mentioned last night! The odd thing is that the writing's not heavy at all, it's all delivered in a light and airy way. So why all the angst? Because even though I watch stuff about migration issues, climate change, etc, on TV, when Ali Smith writes about them, it changes me, it pushes my buttons in a new way. She's remote controlling you! Funny you should say that because there's a remote control in the story, only it's been posted—as in posted in a letterbox—to an island with a volcanic hole in the middle of it. What's funny about that? Just that I remember thinking the first book in this series had a hole in the middle of it, a burnt-out hole...oh, never mind. Deception Island, Antarctica …………………………………… 3 How's the book going? Doesn't seem as if you've been turning the leaves very fast? Well, I've been stopping to look things up. What sort of things? The Italian filmmaker, Lorenza Mazatti, for example, and the film she made in 1956 called Together about two men with no voices, based on a story called the The Glass Marble.. First it was marble stones. Now it's glass marbles! There are children playing marbles in the film, which I just watched, and when I came back to the book, the opening scene of the film was described and I felt I was one of the watchers in the film, I could see it all happening on the page in front of me. Next you'll be telling me you're a character in the book! Well, I do feel like a silent shadow character. There's a shadow brother with no voice in this book, and I remember that in the first book there was a silent shadow sister. Plus Ali Smith implies that everywhere in the world there are shadow versions of what we live, have lived, will live, and they are not 'other', they are a part of us even if we can't see or hear them. Lorenza Mazetti 'Together' …………………………………… 4 You're more than half-way through! Any more thoughts. I'm really happy that this is becoming the book of Daniel—he was my favourite character in the entire series. It feels right that the books begin and end with him. He truly is a man for many seasons. Another character (real-life artist Kurt Schwitters), has just called Daniel 'lucky', and I had thought of him already as lucky in the first book, lucky to be dying leisurely and in comfort—though I notice Ali Smith moved him out of the home for the elderly where he was living in Autumn. Maybe she was protecting him from Covid! More like she needs him to be able to have visitors! It's the month of February 2020, and he's about to have some significant visitors...from Winter Kurt Schwitters …………………………………… 5 So, how were the visitors? Daniel in the future got a present from the past. Love that! Plu-bloody-perfect! It's Ali Smith! She's my muse—and she's a wizard with sand-timers. I wish she'd step out of the dust jacket of this book and into our living-room. I'd give her such a here-and-now welcome! Glad you're not a conjuror! I mean, a strange person suddenly appearing... Don't worry, she's not going to appear! Photos in books don't come to life! It's a pity the Hockney painting on the front cover wouldn't come to life. I fancy a walk down a green and leafy lane... But that's just what's happening now in the book! A character is walking under those very Hockney trees... David Hockney …………………………………… 6 Hey, you're nearly at the end! Remember me saying that Daniel got a present from the past when the visitors came. Well near the end of the book, he gets another 'present from the past', and it's phrased exactly like that! And there's more talk of stones...and leaves...and autumn sisters..and Rilke...and.. Do you realise that your enthusiasm for everything in this book is beginning to make you sound like a child, a particularly ridiculous child? I don't care! When I read Ali Smith, my inner child wakes up, my feet leave the ground and phrases like 'Leben oder theater' make me cry buckets, and phrases like 'birds of the airBnBs' make me laugh like a barrel. Please tell me you're not going to post this ridiculous dialogue online for other people to see? Well, yes, I am, as I did for the other books in the series. You started it all when you asked me, What are you reading? as I was beginning the first book. The dialogue format took off from there. And you think all this is worth telling the world about, because...? I don't know what it's worth. What I do know is that I found this book super stimulating and very thought provoking, and I'd like to share that 'ridiculous' enthusiasm with the community of readers I hang out with online because I think Ali Smith is a king of queens and a queen of kings in the literary world of today, and I want people to hear that! I want to sing, Ali Smith, You are my sunshine! Charlotte Salomon

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marchpane

    Light in darkness Shall I compare Ali to a summer’s day? A good one, from some other year than this; Rough winds do shake us all and tempers fray, At Summer’s cease, a hope-smith will be missed. Whether Ali Smith shall turn out to be the hero of our literary times, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, the pages of her Seasonal Quartet must show. Perhaps it’s too soon to judge, but with four state-of-the-nation novels in under four years, is there another author whose attempt comes cl Light in darkness Shall I compare Ali to a summer’s day? A good one, from some other year than this; Rough winds do shake us all and tempers fray, At Summer’s cease, a hope-smith will be missed. Whether Ali Smith shall turn out to be the hero of our literary times, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, the pages of her Seasonal Quartet must show. Perhaps it’s too soon to judge, but with four state-of-the-nation novels in under four years, is there another author whose attempt comes close? Summer is a more subdued novel when compared to Spring’s exuberance, Winter’s phantasms or Autumn’s bite. It begins with a jittery, fractious energy, but settles to become more languorous and pensive; a controlled deceleration bringing this series to a gentle halt, ending with its characters gazing upwards to the sky. This novel tones down the lexical fireworks and dials up the humanistic warmth. There’s clarity and a strong sense of symmetry in its dual time periods—connective stories of two seismic global events: WWII and the 2020 pandemic. The parallels drawn are solid ones, from treatment of foreigners and refugees, to correspondence across unbridgeable distances, to the light of everyday heroism in dark times. The kindness of strangers is a strong theme—a generous view of human nature and innate compassion. Smith peoples her novels with characters who are good—fallible yes, but fundamentally big-hearted, kind and decent. Even after accounting for family resemblances, these characters can tend to bleed together a bit, as if Smith has two or three templates (the Artist, the Activist, etc) that she keeps returning to, inserting variations of the same person into different decades and settings to serve her ends. Daniel Gluck is revealed to be the Quartet’s heart, or to put it another way, the axis around which the other characters orbit, sometimes colliding, sometimes not. Now aged 104, he has indeed seen many seasons and is present in both of the novel’s main timelines. As his mental acuity declines, his memories of the past intrude upon the present. Or maybe, given the many references to Einstein, time is bendier, less linear, than we think. Smith’s project to write as contemporaneously as possible has proven its value beyond doubt. Summer has the dubious honour of being the first Covid novel—for us a mirror, for future readers a time capsule—and it is a reading experience set apart from endless news cycles or even essays, something only fiction can offer. Summer is a mournful season according to Smith, one so lovely that we grieve its ending before it is even over. I’m sad there won’t be another of these nourishing, consoling novels to reflect 2021 back to us, whatever it may bring, and to remind us to supply our own light.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Violet wells

    The timely publishing gimmick of this quartet badly backfired when the pandemic arrived. You can imagine the scenario: Smith only has a few weeks before the book needs to be delivered and suddenly life as we've always known it dramatically changes. How can you write a series of novels about the state of the nation and leave out Covid and lockdown? So she has to hurriedly shoehorn it in. And, not surprisingly, the result is messy and unconvincing. Especially noticeable when George Floyd's name is The timely publishing gimmick of this quartet badly backfired when the pandemic arrived. You can imagine the scenario: Smith only has a few weeks before the book needs to be delivered and suddenly life as we've always known it dramatically changes. How can you write a series of novels about the state of the nation and leave out Covid and lockdown? So she has to hurriedly shoehorn it in. And, not surprisingly, the result is messy and unconvincing. Especially noticeable when George Floyd's name is thrown into the narrative without context like a random firecracker. The big problem is she didn't know what lockdown would entail, how the government would respond, what it would highlight about our society. Basically, this book needed at least another six months of gestation and work which it didn't get because of its gimmick. Hubris in action. I understand why this, like Utopia Avenue, didn't make the Booker short list. As a stand alone novel it's inferior to the other three books in the quartet. It begins brilliantly. Ali Smith is fabulous at artistically channelling anger. Anger is an ugly emotion. Even when it's righteous and fully justified it can still make one recoil. And when there's anger melodrama is never far away. Everyone starts shouting. Figuratively, this can happen in a novel when an author wants us to get angry. Everything becomes a bit too manipulative and shouty. Ali Smith always manages to cleanse anger of all its ugly jarring notes and makes it a force of eloquence without recourse to melodrama, like a war dance. I much prefer her anger to her optimism. There's a hippy in Ali Smith. She has a penchant for new-age feel-good whimsy. Like Daniel's Jewish sister in occupied France supposedly bringing back to life dead people by thinking about them. That scene seemed dangerously trite to me. Like blowing rainbow bubbles in the midst of a dead pillaged forest. There was a point when I began to tire of every character being essentially of the same mind. Her pro Brexit character for example was thoroughly unconvincing as a different point of view. We never feel Brexit is any more important to her than the colour of her postman's socks. In no way does she represent the ugly division which traumatised the UK as a community. I found myself longing for a larger canvas. Too often there was a sense of Smith preaching to the converted. If the world consisted only of Ali Smith characters there would be no racism, no social inequality, no global warming. But, disturbingly, I found myself wondering if it's a world I'd like to live in. We certainly don't want racism or global warming but maybe we do need Tories - to provide some creative opposition. A lot of her craft Smith has learned from Muriel Spark, in particular, the seemingly casual way of constructing narrative as if she's wandering around in her dressing gown and carpet slippers still figuring out the plot while she's in the act of writing it. Like Spark, she's usually brilliant at arriving at a point where everything knocks together and creates a lighted circuit, but also like Spark, now and again this doesn't happen. The last third of this novel began to ramble for me, it ran out of track and ended up in a kind of overgrown siding. The scenery didn't change. It felt like Smith needed a new inspired character, someone who wasn't of the same mind as all the other characters. Instead the dreary Art conducted another dreary conversation with Charlotte; Iris returns with her big angry heart and starts to grate with her righteous political correctness and the exchange between Sacha and the incarcerated illegal immigrant, never convincing to begin with as this is where Smith feeds most of the lockdown stuff, becomes maudlin in its sentimentality. Shame this came out the summer of 2020 and not next year. However, there's no question this quartet is a fabulous achievement and has catapulted Ali Smith up the world rankings as a novelist (just as the Cromwell novels did for Hilary Mantel). From a maverick, overly hit and miss writer she's become an author to get truly excited about.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Eric Anderson

    What a strange, tumultuous journey it's been over the past four years, but I'm so grateful that I've had Ali Smith's Seasonal novels by my side! Who could have predicted the many unsettling transformations that would take place in our social and political landscape when she began this ambitious writing project back in 2016? The highly contentious Brexit vote described in “Autumn” resulted in the UK officially leaving the EU this year. The conservative ex-mayor of London who was mocked in “Winter What a strange, tumultuous journey it's been over the past four years, but I'm so grateful that I've had Ali Smith's Seasonal novels by my side! Who could have predicted the many unsettling transformations that would take place in our social and political landscape when she began this ambitious writing project back in 2016? The highly contentious Brexit vote described in “Autumn” resulted in the UK officially leaving the EU this year. The conservative ex-mayor of London who was mocked in “Winter” has now become the Prime Minister. Some of the immigrants being detained under the watchful gaze of a correction officer in “Spring” have now been released because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It's so unique how the stories in these novels have been shaped by our immediate times and thus captured the sensibility, fears and divergent opinions of the country in its state of constant flux. As Iris remarks in this novel: “We're all walking the line now, the line between one era and another.” This makes these novels invaluable documents as they reflect this turbulent era. But they also join together to form a tapestry of relationships between specific characters introduced over the course of the previous novels, many of whom reappear in this final book in the series “Summer”. This novel primarily focuses on the stories of Grace Greenlaw, a single mother and former actress who lives next door to her ex-husband Jeff, as well as their two children Sacha and Robert. As with the other novels, there are multiple conversations and oodles of pleasurable witty dialogue between the characters which results in a lot of humour and fun wordplay. Grace is also visited by Arthur and Charlotte from the novel “Winter” who are continuing their 'Art in Nature' online project. They all go to interview Daniel Gluck from “Autumn”. He's now 104 years old and still being visited by Elisabeth who is reading a novel she describes as “Sub Woolfian” about Rilke and Katherine Mansfield which was referred to in “Spring”. Although there are multiple references to events that occurred as recently as May and June of this year, the novel also looks back to previous seasons and periods of time such as the Hutchinson Internment Camp of WWII, a facility on the Isle of Man where German refugees and English residents with German or Italian heritage were held under suspicion throughout the war. Read my full review of Summer by Ali Smith on LonesomeReader You can also watch me discuss this novel with scenes from my local park here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VB81Eeg-7WA

  6. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

    Another wonderful book which completes the set of four seasons. I am a bit late to this one because my copy arrived while I was reading the Booker longlist and there are already several excellent detailed reviews here, so I may keep this one short and focus on personal impressions. Those who have read the earlier books will recognise some of the characters (for a comprehensive list of connections see Gumble's Yard's review) but once again there are new ones in the foreground and some of the leadi Another wonderful book which completes the set of four seasons. I am a bit late to this one because my copy arrived while I was reading the Booker longlist and there are already several excellent detailed reviews here, so I may keep this one short and focus on personal impressions. Those who have read the earlier books will recognise some of the characters (for a comprehensive list of connections see Gumble's Yard's review) but once again there are new ones in the foreground and some of the leading characters from the earlier books are only mentioned as part of others' stories, and others do not return at all - for all of the links Ali Smith is not a writer who likes neat resolved plots. This one starts in Brighton, initially from the viewpoint of Sacha, a teenager interested in green issues, and her relationships with her mother Grace and younger brother Robert, a brilliant but wayward child who flirts with far right politics but is also interested in Albert Einstein. He superglues an hourglass to Sacha's hand and she is helped by Art and Charlotte (see Winter) who take her home and start a conversation which results in the family joining them on a trip to Suffolk. Daniel Gluck (introduced in Autumn and now 104) gets a section which focuses on his war memories, when he was interned in a camp for German civilians on the Isle of Man. Other sections focus on Daniel's sister who worked with the resistance in France, Grace's memories of a theatre group trip to Suffolk in the 80s and Charlotte dealing with Covid lockdown in the Cornish house where much of Winter was set with Art's aunt Iris, the Greenham veteran and radical idealist. Real people discussed include the Italian film maker Lorenza Mazzetti, Einstein and Dickens, and the Shakespeare references are from The Winter's Tale. Once again the book ends on a fragile note of hope. It will be very interesting to see what Ali Smith does next after this monumental quartet. A few more recommended reviews: Gumble's Yard, Fionnuala, Marchpane, Neil, Paul, Violet

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ceecee

    ‘Summer is a merry tale out of a sad one’. Well we live in hope it’s a merry one. Well, you either like Ali Smith’s style or you don’t but what I do like about her books is that they are different and thoughtful. This is the final book in the seasonal quartet and I really wish I’d read them back to back because they are instalments of one book. There are recurring characters both real and fictional, a recurring organisation in S4A4 with the same themes running throughout. These include political ‘Summer is a merry tale out of a sad one’. Well we live in hope it’s a merry one. Well, you either like Ali Smith’s style or you don’t but what I do like about her books is that they are different and thoughtful. This is the final book in the seasonal quartet and I really wish I’d read them back to back because they are instalments of one book. There are recurring characters both real and fictional, a recurring organisation in S4A4 with the same themes running throughout. These include political comments (often swipes rather than takes!) current events, art and literature. I really like the start of this one with the Greenlaw family in Brighton which is darkly funny and wickedly clever in places. It is set in the context of a post Brexit and Covid19 world and I like how one of the messages is that of hope once this is beaten. The first part introduces the theme of Space and Time as 13 year old Robert is fascinated by Einstein and Words as a character is composing a modern lexicography. Some of that is very funny. I love Grace Greenlaw’s reflections on a marvellous and immortal summer she spends in Suffolk in 1989 where she is acting in plays. Grace reminds us that we are always heading towards summer (well I certainly am!) but it’s a slippery season and it’s transient. I also love the letters Sacha writes to Hero in the detention centre from Spring in which she vividly describes our summer bird visitor - the swift. Swifts are also summer to me and so this resonates. I log their arrival like Sacha (usually 6/5 - 12/5 here), observe and marvel at their aeronautic acrobatics and weep at their departure in early August as they head back to Africa. They are the most incredible birds as Sacha demonstrates vividly. I like the art theme which this time features Lorenza Mozzetti and the literature with Shakespeare’s Winters Tale, Dickens and Keats. However, the book lost me in the middle although I can see how it links to the detention centres which is a focus of Spring and the characters are from Autumn but it does find its way back again in the final third and you understand how it relates to the first section. Overall, it’s clever and I really like parts of it although Autumn remains my favourite of the four. I will read them again but this time as one rather than separately then I think the links between all four will have deeper meaning. With thanks to NetGalley and Penguin General UK, Hamish Hamilton for the ARC.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    Because summer isn’t just a merry tale. Because there’s no merry tale without the darkness. And summer’s surely really all about an imagined end. The triumphant conclusion of Ali Smith's seasonal quarter ... or have we just imagined it's over? For those keen to spot the repeated themes and motifs, here's my Seasonal Quartet bingo card See my twin brother's review for the best take on this book and more detail on all the connections with the rest of the series: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show. Because summer isn’t just a merry tale. Because there’s no merry tale without the darkness. And summer’s surely really all about an imagined end. The triumphant conclusion of Ali Smith's seasonal quarter ... or have we just imagined it's over? For those keen to spot the repeated themes and motifs, here's my Seasonal Quartet bingo card See my twin brother's review for the best take on this book and more detail on all the connections with the rest of the series: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Some specific thoughts of my own below. See him as he squats on Cromer beach doing sums, Charlie Chaplin with the brow of Shakespeare. 'Einstein' by John Maynard Keynes, New Statesman and Nation (1933), and the epigraph to Einstein on the Run: How Britain Saved the World’s Greatest Scientist Impressively it seems Smith may have planned all along that Einstein - described by Keynes as combining Shakespeare and Chaplin - would bring these two key figures from the quartet together, so much so that she concealed a deus-ex-machina in Winter such that ein stein (a stone) could also bring many of the key characters physically together in Summer. [Although one cannot mention Keynes and Einstein without noting the awful anti-semitism in Keynes's notes after meeting the great man in Berlin in 1926, and it is odd Smith doesn't pick this up] Smith may also have planned all along that the series would end with Daniel recalling his time in an internment camp in the 1940s (it is first mentioned in Autumn and I believe she said after writing Winter than Summer would feature the 1940s) as an echo of present day immigration detainees (following the theme of Spring). But she can't possibly have known how that would also so neatly mirror the lockdown we'd all experience in 2020, bringing her signature blend of past and present to a brilliant conclusion. [Some references to Spanish flu do feel a little more forced.] Who am I then? What am I doing here? This is not my country or my home; I have no one left in the whole world, everybody’s dead. Lorenza Mazzetti, Diario londinese - translation by Francesca Massarenti A quote (not in the novel) from the female artist who features in Summer and one that in one sense could mirror the experience of the 104 year old Daniel Gluck still mourning the only two people he really loved, (the real-life) Pauline Boty and his sister Hannah, whose story, hinted at in Autumn, we learn in more detail here both from his perspective and things he could not have known. And yet, wonderfully, the aforementioned stone actually leaves Daniel at the end of the novel living with his son and having met his sister's great grandson, who he mistakes for his sister. At the same time she’s made it clear to both that she’s not really available and can’t commit for longer; she’s told them about Gordon Stone, her longterm boyfriend at home. (In reality there’s no home and there’s no such person. Gordonstoun is the name of a posh school in Scotland that her mother used to work at before she met her father. Prince Charles went there.) A missed opportunity. A rather out-of-context Smithian pun - but one that fails to mention the history of Gordonstoun: a school that started in the 1930s for both teachers and pupils who came to the UK as refugees from Nazi Germany, following the model of Beltane School in Wimbledon. Die Schule startete als Schule für Flüchtlingskinder und für aus Deutschland geflüchtete Lehrer, vergleichbar etwa der Beltane School in Wimbledon (London) oder Stoatley Rough School (German wikipedia) That could have led to an exploration of Beltane School - founded by Ernst Bulova, another refugee from the Nazis in the 1930. But when the war began he was himself placed into internment by the British government, and later, like Einstein, left the UK for the US. https://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/28/ny... Beltane School was in turn turned into an internment camp used after the war for some Nazi prisoners but also, incredibly in the same camp, for holocaust survivors: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/ob... The omission of this fascinating story is a shame as it would have provided another Wimbledon link for my bingo card, which I've consequently had to amend (postcards have also gone and the mother here turns out to not really tick the dotty box). But for those keen to play along - here it is: Millions and millions, all across the country and all across the world, saw the lying, and the mistreatments of people and the planet, and were vocal about it, on marches, in protests, by writing, by voting, by talking, by activism, on the radio, on TV, via social media, tweet after tweet, page after page. Overall - a very neat conclusion to the quartet. My own reservation is that although the political campaigning of the novel is admirable in many respects, it does have the one-sided, simplistic, bubble nature of social media (tweet after tweet), as well as some unpleasant abuse of the prime minister and his chief advisor, an approach to political debate which is, I believe, more part of the problem than part of the solution to our current divides, so 4 stars.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bianca

    Every year since 2016, Ali Smith has delighted readers with annual instalments of the seasonal quartet. Autumn, Winter, Spring featured among my favourite reads in their respective publishing years. I was greatly anticipating reading this last instalment. Many thanks to Penguin UK for approving me for this eARC. Smith continues to bewitch us with her language play, observations, quirky characters, historical recollections, thoughts on art, the environment, political climate. Truthfully, the nove Every year since 2016, Ali Smith has delighted readers with annual instalments of the seasonal quartet. Autumn, Winter, Spring featured among my favourite reads in their respective publishing years. I was greatly anticipating reading this last instalment. Many thanks to Penguin UK for approving me for this eARC. Smith continues to bewitch us with her language play, observations, quirky characters, historical recollections, thoughts on art, the environment, political climate. Truthfully, the novel sagged a bit in the middle and there were some bits that didn’t contribute much and left me asking questions. Also, nitpicking here, while it serves to propel the narrative, it didn’t make sense that young people, not even relatives, would visit Daniel Gluck, now 104 year old, during the COVID lockdown. Despite my small discontents, this novel is on another level. My favourite parts were those about Grace Greenlaw, a single mother of two precocious, know-it-all kids - Sacha, a sixteen-year-old environmentalist, and her brother, Robert, a moulding, inquisitive, creative, very intelligent, and antagonistic thirteen year old. I also loved Sacha’s letters to Hero, a Vietnamese refugee who was held in a detention centre. As in the previous seasons, we are introduced to a (relatively) unknown female artist, this time, it’s the Italian Lorenza Mazzetti, a director, writer, painter. Her 1956 film “Together” is referenced several times. I plan to watch it this evening. If you’re interested, here’s a link: https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/w.... (It turns out this link works only for UK residents) There is a lot to unpack in this novel. Others have written much more eloquent, detailed reviews. If you love smart, experimental yet accessible writing, you must read this novel and the entire seasonal quartet. Individually, they’re exceptional. Put together, they’re a masterpiece.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    After reading the first three of the quartet, I was curious as to how Ali Smith might somehow manage to tie everything together with this closing instalment.. Familiar faces/venues from all prior seasons return throughout Summer, but more than closing the circle, the last in the series ends things on an open, incomplete, hopeful note. Although it's not easy to see the current global (and UK) crises as anything but chaos partly wrought by joyless opportunists, Smith convinces us -- at least for t After reading the first three of the quartet, I was curious as to how Ali Smith might somehow manage to tie everything together with this closing instalment.. Familiar faces/venues from all prior seasons return throughout Summer, but more than closing the circle, the last in the series ends things on an open, incomplete, hopeful note. Although it's not easy to see the current global (and UK) crises as anything but chaos partly wrought by joyless opportunists, Smith convinces us -- at least for the duration of the book, a miraculous enough feat as Covid-19 and Brexit doubly devastate the national psyche -- that much bigger changes, way beyond the parochial, money-grubbing agendas and the mendacious marshalling of the masses against their own interests, are always afoot, and that, sappy as it may sound (these are the least cynical works of fiction I can think of, despite numerous barbs against predictable villains), faith in the best of us -- and the sense that we're all fundamentally the same -- has never been more important. Resistance is not futile. There are always heroic, galvanising, against-the-grain examples -- Lorenza Mazetti, Greta Thunberg, Albert Einstein -- if we need them, and we've rarely needed them more. 'And summer's surely really all about 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. Like there's really a kinder finale and it's not just possible but assured, there's a natural harmony that'll be spread at your feet, unrolled like a sunlit landscape just for you. As if what it was always all about, your time on earth, was the full happy stretch of all the muscles of the body on a warmed patch of grass, one long sweet stem of that grass in the mouth. Care free. What a thought. Summer. The Summer's Tale. There's no such play. Don't be fooled, Grace. The briefest and slipperiest of the seasons, the one that won't be held to account -- because summer won't be held at all, except in bits, fragments, moments, flashes of memory of socalled or imagined perfect summers, summers that never existed. Not even this one she's in exists. Even though it's apparently the best summer so far of the century. Not even when she's quite literally walking down a road as beautiful and archetypal as this through an actual perfect summer afternoon. So we mourn it while we're in it. Look at me walking down a road in summer thinking about the transience of summer. Even while I'm right at the heart of it I just can't get to the heart of it.' Thank you Netgalley and Penguin UK for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Neil

    Summer is the final part of a quartet of novels. Over the last 5 days, I haven’t read just Summer, but I actually read, back to back, Autumn (for the fourth time), Winter (for the third time), Spring (for the second time) and THEN Summer for the first time. I don’t say this in order to boast, but more because I see the quartet as a single work and I think it is best experienced as a single work: I would definitely not recommend reading Summer standalone, but I would 100% recommend reading all fo Summer is the final part of a quartet of novels. Over the last 5 days, I haven’t read just Summer, but I actually read, back to back, Autumn (for the fourth time), Winter (for the third time), Spring (for the second time) and THEN Summer for the first time. I don’t say this in order to boast, but more because I see the quartet as a single work and I think it is best experienced as a single work: I would definitely not recommend reading Summer standalone, but I would 100% recommend reading all four parts and reading them as close together as possible. I have decided not to mention anything about the plot of Summer here. For anyone who has read the previous parts of the overall quartet, seeing how the story unfolds and how links are formed back to earlier parts is a lot of fun and I wouldn’t want to spoil that. Instead, I am just going to give some thoughts on how Summer encapsulates some key ideas in the books. Summer is a fitting finale to a wonderful set of books. It brings back several characters from earlier parts (most notably Autumn and Winter - the minimal cross over with Spring almost suggests that Smith conceived Spring and Summer together as follow-ons). It continues several motifs (opening line drawn from Dickens, Charlie Chaplin movies, Shakespeare plays, a 20th-century female artist whose works play a part in the story etc.). But, more fundamentally than those, it draws together the themes that have been weaving around one another throughout the first three parts of the work. Here are my favourite quotes from each part of the quartet: It’s about history, and being neighbours, Elisabeth said. (Autumn) Depends whether you think there’s a them and an us, Iris says, or just an us. (Winter) What if, the girl says. Instead of saying, this border divides these places. We said, this border unites these places. This border holds together these two really interesting different places. What if we declared border crossings places where, listen, when you crossed them, you yourself became doubly possible. (Spring) It makes you and I more than just you or I, Hannah says. It makes us us. (Summer) These are not my favourite quotes because of any literary merit they may have, but because they capture key ideas from each book. Overall, I think the Seasonal Quartet is a cry for tolerance and acceptance. It was Jesus, the founder of the Christian religion, who said we should all “love your neighbour as yourself” and then, when challenged about the definition of “neighbour”, told a story (The Good Samaritan) to show that my neighbour is anyone I come across who could benefit from my compassion. Jesus also said that a key commandment of Scripture, in his view, was that we should “love your neighbour as yourself”. Why do I mention this in the context of these books? These are not Christian books, so why turn to the Christian religion for quotes? Fundamentally, it feels to me that these ideas underpin what Ali Smith is writing about. Yes, the books have a political slant to them and that political slant will not be to everyone’s taste, but I think that if you can dig underneath the politics, the underlying message is about how we treat one another and how we treat ourselves. In my reading, the first three books leave me with thoughts about neighbours/community (Autumn), self (Winter) and countries (Spring). And then Summer draws these together to make sure we know that all three are required if we are to make progress as human beings. And that we have to let go of the past in order to move forward into a better future. These aren't necessarily new ideas, but this set of four books makes you want to do something about it. Let me explain. In Autumn, as well as the quote above, Elisabeth as a young child says about talking to Daniel ”Here are the questions I would ask him 1 what is it like to have neighbours 2 what is it like to be a neighbour…. A key thread running through Autumn is the relationship between neighbours Elisabeth and Daniel. The book as a whole feels very much that it challenges us about how we treat those around us. The Brexit focus makes it a book about local communities and their reaction to the votes and the schisms revealed. I finished Autumn very much thinking about local community, my neighbourhood. In Winter, we follow follow several characters on a voyage of self-discovery. Lux plays a key role in shining a light (hence her name) into people’s lives. It becomes about transformation of the individual and we read quotes such as: That’s what winter is: an exercise in remembering how to still yourself then how to come pliantly back to life again. Or You never stop being yourself on the inside, whatever age people think you are by looking at you from the outside. Then, in Spring, the focus shifts and becomes more international. We read, along with the quote above, about borders and whether they can be broken down: Think about it, Paddy says. Ireland in uproar. Brand new union. Brand new border. Brand new ancient Irish civil unrest. Don’t tell me this isn’t relevant all over again in its brand new same old way. And that it… …wouldn’t take long, no time at all, for those fairly new separate little hedge sprigs next to each other in their boxes, they were more than sprigs now, bushes already, to form into just the one hedge instead of all the separate plants they’d been planted as. So, the first three volumes of the quartet tell us about local communities, individuals and countries. Summer provides the perfect culmination to this set of books. On just page 16, it lays its cards on the table by quoting from Hannah Arendt Forgiveness is the only way to reverse the irreversible flow of history Then the artist in focus for this instalment is Lorenza Mazzetti and, in particular, a film she made called “Together”. There are significant portions of the book that focus on internment (a topic that has been present through the whole quartet as a sort of antithesis of forgiveness and acceptance). And alongside the quote above (It makes us us) it is clear we are reading a plea for individuals and nations to break from the past and head into a future where barriers have been broken down. If you want to see some more details about the actual book, take a look at the excellent reviews already written by my friends Paul and Gumble’s Yard. I haven’t talked about Albert Einstein (and the significance of “ein Stein”), for example. And I haven’t said anything about Sacha and Robert, the return of several characters from Autumn and Spring and the way two of them get together. And I haven’t mentioned how we find out who someone’s great-grandmother is. Read these two reviews, but first, and more importantly, READ THE BOOKS! Gumble’s Yard Paul In particular, as highlighted in Paul’s review, Gumble’s Yard’s review illustrates the connections between the four books in the quartet and collecting these as you read through the whole set is enormous fun. Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet is an incredible achievement. Reading all four books together as a single work of art is, I believe, the best way to appreciate the enormity of what Smith has created. I can’t recommend that you read Summer. I can only recommend that you read Autumn, then Winter, then Spring and THEN Summer.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    In early May I happened to see that the publisher of this work had just received its final edits. That means Ali Smith didn’t have much Time to add the coronavirus pandemic to her manuscript. For the most part (excepting the teenaged Sacha’s correspondence) I think she got it to work, especially Charlotte’s self-imposed, depressive isolation in Iris’s house. Almost certainly Smith would’ve excised things she’d already written, but since this volume is longer than the others, perhaps it was more In early May I happened to see that the publisher of this work had just received its final edits. That means Ali Smith didn’t have much Time to add the coronavirus pandemic to her manuscript. For the most part (excepting the teenaged Sacha’s correspondence) I think she got it to work, especially Charlotte’s self-imposed, depressive isolation in Iris’s house. Almost certainly Smith would’ve excised things she’d already written, but since this volume is longer than the others, perhaps it was more a process of tweaking and adding, and not much subtracting. Its revisions still would’ve taken her some time. Speaking of Time, Einstein is a conduit between Charlotte of Winter and Robert, another of Smith’s precocious children. In some ways their relationship reflects Daniel and Elisabeth’s in Autumn. Postcards were connective clues in the other books, but if there’s one here I missed it: Maybe it was burned to ashes before it was posted. No matter; plenty of other connections make their way through Time, including the Hepworth. My favorite parts of the book were of the past, though of a more difficult Time: Daniel’s story of internment on the Isle of Man with his German-born father and the German-born/-descended artists; Hannah’s story of resistance in occupied France. I hated to leave Hannah; I imagine her still wandering the outskirts, quietly, secretly, in danger, proffering a hand to those who need it. * One day I hope to reread these four books straight through. That Time is not now. But after writing the above, I flip through Autumn for references to Hannah. Unrelated to her, I see the words “Spanish flu.” Autumn was published in 2016. Ali Smith might not be prescient, but she does know how Nature and Time work. Seasons are cyclical, so why not my rereading.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Neale

    I finished this last night and while I enjoyed it, especially reconnecting with Daniel, I love his part of the novel where he is locked down because of the Covid Virus. He is elderly now and his neighbour looks after him. As he lies in his bed his memory plays tricks on him, and one minute he will be present and coherent and then his memory will slip back to his past. I realized upon finishing that I cannot rate this book at the moment because it should not be read as a standalone novel. This is I finished this last night and while I enjoyed it, especially reconnecting with Daniel, I love his part of the novel where he is locked down because of the Covid Virus. He is elderly now and his neighbour looks after him. As he lies in his bed his memory plays tricks on him, and one minute he will be present and coherent and then his memory will slip back to his past. I realized upon finishing that I cannot rate this book at the moment because it should not be read as a standalone novel. This is not what Ali Smith has intended and it has been so long ago that I read the first three, that many of the references were going over my head. The four books of the Seasonal Quartet I believe are meant to be read as one whole story, preferably back to back, especially if you have a memory like mine. I think what Ali Smith has attempted to do, and succeed, with this quartet of books is quite brilliant. This last book in the quartet takes place during the Covid pandemic, and Smith must have been writing write up until the deadline. As soon as I can find some time to read all four together I will rate "Summer" then. To do so now would not be fair or be a realistic rating. I will say that a good chunk of the novel has an epistolary structure with much of the book being letters between various characters and of course is has Smith's style and humour. Thanks to Netgalley and Hamish Hamilton for the ARC. Rating to come after reading all the four books together.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    Summer’s surely really all about 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. Like there really is a kinder finale and it’s not just possible b Summer’s surely really all about 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. Like there really is a kinder finale and it’s not just possible but assured, there’s a natural harmony that’ll be spread at your feet, unrolled like a sunlit landscape just for you. Care free. What a thought. Summer. The Summer's Tale. There's no such play, Grace. Don't be fooled. “Summer” is variously defined here as a lintel (the most important beam, structurally, in a building), as a horse that can carry a great weight, as the season most overloaded with our expectations. That’s a lot of pressure for Ali Smith to put on her own Summer — the final volume in her Seasonal quartet — but, too, Smith writes: “Summers can take it. That’s why we call them summers.” Once again, Smith has released a volume written completely in the moment (she may have started this thinking her themes would continue to concentrate on climate change, the rise of right wing politics, and refugee detainee camps, but she was able to organically include COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd as though her narrative had been inevitably moving towards those world-changing events all along), and taken together, I simply can’t imagine a more appropriate encapsulation and exploration of our moment in time. I think that Summer did an amazing job of tying everything together, and while Autumn was the absolute standout of the series for me, and although the other three in the quartet merited four stars on their own, this is definitely a five star series overall; I can imagine this being read and studied deep into the future and look forward to soon rereading all four as a cohesive experience. (Note: I read an ARC through NetGalley and passages quoted may not be in their final forms.) Well, that’s what art is, maybe. Something that impresses mysteriously on you and you don’t know why. Perhaps this definition for art is all I really need to write, and while I don’t want to rehash the plot for Summer here, I do want to record some impressions. As in the first three volumes, Smith invokes Dickens (the beginning of the actual plot echoes David Copperfield) and Shakespeare (this time, The Winter’s Tale) and we are introduced to another woman artist who deserves to be better remembered (the visual artist, novelist, and filmmaker Lorenza Mazzetti). There are references to Chaplin and Einstein, and along with frequent punning and word play, there’s a revisit with the sculpture by Barbara Hepworth that allows for word play on Einstein’s name. Characters from the first three volumes are reintroduced and we learn more about their pasts and see the threads of their present all tied up (the deep state agents of SA4A make another appearance, demonstrating how bureaucratic overreach inevitably leads to the comically absurd). And while — perhaps particularly in a COVID lockdown — it’s easy to despair that the world is closer to its doomsday than ever before, Smith offers up the twin meaning-makers of art and activism. It’s not incidental that Smith has populated these books with so many artists: confronted by their own doomsday times, they, like Smith in this quartet, strove to create meaning out of mortality: What art does is exist. And then because we encounter it, we remember we exist too. And that one day we won’t. And with several generations of British activists giving their opinions on the present in Summer, Smith reminds us that it is always doomsday somewhere: Yes, it’s surreal for us here right now. But it’s never not a state of emergency somewhere. We’re naive if we think life normally isn’t surreal as fuck for most people scraping a living on this earth The overall philosophy of the series seems to be: When we are confronted with confusing and dangerous times, we ought to strive to make meaning and help others; it was ever so; the seasons will continue to follow one upon the other, world without end, but the fate of humanity lies in human hands. This is the masterwork of a deep thinker; it is art and I find myself, thereby, mysteriously impressed.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    Read my thoughts in the Irish Times: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/bo... Read my thoughts in the Irish Times: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/bo...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    When I learned that you could read Summer, the last of Ali Smith's seasonal series, because it could stand alone just fine, thank you, I decided to sample the waters because I'd seen so much written about her books. It was cool, too, to read a novel referencing lockdowns and quarantines for Covid-19, when all of that came in the news only seven months ago. I guess I thought it took that much longer for a book to be written and then published, but it could be that this was well in the works and Sm When I learned that you could read Summer, the last of Ali Smith's seasonal series, because it could stand alone just fine, thank you, I decided to sample the waters because I'd seen so much written about her books. It was cool, too, to read a novel referencing lockdowns and quarantines for Covid-19, when all of that came in the news only seven months ago. I guess I thought it took that much longer for a book to be written and then published, but it could be that this was well in the works and Smith just penciled it in here and there. My caveat on the book is the middle portion. Early on you get a family of mom and two fighting siblings in England and, as you'd hope, you become intrigued by the trio. It's that much worse, then, when some 125 pp. in, Smith jumps tracks and goes into the past for a completely new set of WWII-era characters. This historical section did little for me, as I felt little investment for the characters and admit to being a bit confused by some dead people who come to life (or something), as if Smith had decided to dabble in anything-but-magical (if you ask me) realism in this section. It took another 120 pp. to get back to the original narrative, and if Smith thought there was anything to be gained by parallel experiences of summer, I'm here to say, "Not so much." In fact, it put me in 3-star mood. But, in the end, the huge font-ed, 380 pp. big bopper was a pretty easy read, and it's clear that Smith is good with a word and fully on to contemporary nonsense as spouted by Boris and his mirror image -- Putin's Snowflake Slave in the West, Trump -- which made for a few pleasant moments, too. Overall, glad I read it, but probably won't dip into the other three seasons soon. Make it a 3.5, then

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Smith’s fourth installment in her seasonal quartet series addresses a myriad of themes (as she did in the previous three). She adroitly weaves characters and ideas introduced in her previous books with the ramifications of dealing with the current pandemic. One has to admire the cleverness of her writing. [For a listing of the connections between the four books and the references that Smith includes, please read the review written by Gumble’s Yard. It is brilliant.] Smith’s writing often seems to Smith’s fourth installment in her seasonal quartet series addresses a myriad of themes (as she did in the previous three). She adroitly weaves characters and ideas introduced in her previous books with the ramifications of dealing with the current pandemic. One has to admire the cleverness of her writing. [For a listing of the connections between the four books and the references that Smith includes, please read the review written by Gumble’s Yard. It is brilliant.] Smith’s writing often seems to have a philosophical bent. There is the focus on walls and freedom in all four. Her character Daniel Gluck spent time in an internment camp, while his sister Hannah died in the Holocaust. Asylum seekers are kept in Immigration Removal Centers. Even Brexit is designed to put up walls around the U.K. And then there is the virus causing lockdowns that keep us from even interacting with each other. There are other themes that abound as well—the concept of time and the ways in which Einstein thought about time. Is it dimensional? What is the importance of art in our culture? Smith includes references to an artist in each of her books. In Summer, she includes the film-maker Lorenza Mazzetti. Smith includes a quote from Hannah Arendt: “Forgiveness is the only way to reverse the irreversible flow of history” which seems particularly apt in this age where politicians seek to divide rather than to unite. Recommend.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Trudie

    After finishing Summer I took a trip down my Seasonal Quartet memory lane and noticed my admiration has been ebbing over the ensuing years. Is it possible this is a reflection of my own unease with how the world has evolved since 2016? Is it a growing realisation that attempts to address a contemporary mindset in overly stylistic fashion ( Weather ! ) is not, at this point in time, ideal for me? Is it possible my less than nimble brain has reached its limits of processing power needed for an A After finishing Summer I took a trip down my Seasonal Quartet memory lane and noticed my admiration has been ebbing over the ensuing years. Is it possible this is a reflection of my own unease with how the world has evolved since 2016? Is it a growing realisation that attempts to address a contemporary mindset in overly stylistic fashion ( Weather ! ) is not, at this point in time, ideal for me? Is it possible my less than nimble brain has reached its limits of processing power needed for an Ali Smith novel? In short, I may not be worthy of this possible masterpiece. It happens. Proceed with caution Ali Smith fans. In fairness to me, I did seem rather cheery and enthusiastic for this type of novel in those far off Autumnal days of yore : Wow. Not sure what I just read, but I know I was stunned by it. I am not sure why I have been avoiding Ali Smith all this time, probably something to do with abstraction and shifting timelines. A vague notion of "cleverness". I didn't mind at all if we were suddenly flung from the mid-nineties to 2016 and back again or were presented with a dreamscape of being stuck in a pine tree. How cute.  Don't worry that abstraction will come back to bite you eventually. Winter 2017 is when the doubts crept in:  It's all fantastically interesting taken individually, but this time the way it was all pasted together seemed less dazzling. The one character I grew to love the most, was a disembodied, wordless floating head, which I found unaccountable hilarious during the first part of the novel but it then turns to stone and disappears, and with it, I think a little of my interest, unfortunately. And by Spring 2019 I was well over the entire endeavour: Barrelling hither and yon from Twitter rants to catching clouds, the life of Mansfield, the rose poetry of Rilke. I don't know if it was my current reading mood or the feeling that the much-vaunted timeliness of this novel combined in an unfortunate way with happenings in the real world ( can I blame Boris here ? ) but whatever the reasonings I found this a surprising chore to get through. Also Florence rather did my head in. So to Summer 2020 - And it all feels a little Ali Smith paint-by-numbers. Plug in an obscure artist or two; Italian filmmaker Lorenza Mazzetti, swap in Einstein for Rilke. Drop-in all the contemporaneous references you can; The Virus, Lockdowns, Trump, Boris, of course. Add in some disorientating time shifts, a dollop of Shakespeare, some undeniably fun wordplay and bish-bosh-bash your crazy quilt of Summer 2020 is done. The studious reader would find a great deal of satisfaction in recognising some of the gang from the previous three novels, as the class rebel, I regret not taking better notes. I became thoroughly discombobulated in the threads of time and character and was just too lazy to do the work to get it all straight. As an amende honourable to Smith and her fans I do recognise there were some fabulous parts - the story of Lorenza Mazzetti has stuck with me, the section on internment camps was eye-opening. I enjoyed the early family dynamics of Robert and Sacha and I wish we could have stuck ( tee hee Robert ! ) with these two longer. The wordplay as I have mentioned in every Ali Smith review is fun and fabulous.  But the cold fact remains - I didn't enjoy it, admire yes, enjoy no. Will this point of view evolve with time and a deeper reread - probably.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Caro the Helmet Lady

    Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?... Wow, what a satisfying ending to the whole year that started with Autumn. And again, and again, Ali Smith enchants with her words but not without making us think or empathise. It's all here. And also - the story, biting its own tail like a cosmic snake, a bit sad, but also a lot of heartwarming. And that boy, mistaken for a girl... <3 Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?... Wow, what a satisfying ending to the whole year that started with Autumn. And again, and again, Ali Smith enchants with her words but not without making us think or empathise. It's all here. And also - the story, biting its own tail like a cosmic snake, a bit sad, but also a lot of heartwarming. And that boy, mistaken for a girl... <3

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ari Levine

    This was a delightful reading experience, and a recapitulation of-- and variation on-- all of the themes that Smith has so deftly woven throughout the quartet. Not just the obligatory references to an obscure female artist, a Shakespeare play, a Dickens quotation, and a Chaplin movie. But also subtler connections amongst the four novels' characters and events, drawing them deeper into a web of historical parallels. It might be churlish of me to complain about the hastily tacked-on response to Co This was a delightful reading experience, and a recapitulation of-- and variation on-- all of the themes that Smith has so deftly woven throughout the quartet. Not just the obligatory references to an obscure female artist, a Shakespeare play, a Dickens quotation, and a Chaplin movie. But also subtler connections amongst the four novels' characters and events, drawing them deeper into a web of historical parallels. It might be churlish of me to complain about the hastily tacked-on response to Covid as the book was going into press, and the way the middle third (about Daniel's wartime internment camp experience) seemed overly padded out. Other reviewers have convinced me that really need to reread the entire quartet from the beginning as a complete work of art, but the shagginess of Summer didn't measure up to the sheer perfection of Spring. Thanks to Netgalley and Knopf for the ARC, in exchange for this unbiased review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    I’ve been imagining how Ali Smith might wrap up her Seasonal Quartet, perhaps the most ambitious fictional project of this era, for a long time. Summer met and exceeded all of my expectations. Summer is a story about imagined and anticipated endings. As we wait and anticipate the summery end of a seasonal cycle and then spend much of summer under the ever present weight of its impending end, the characters in this novel are all imagining and anticipating endings. In this way, what could easily h I’ve been imagining how Ali Smith might wrap up her Seasonal Quartet, perhaps the most ambitious fictional project of this era, for a long time. Summer met and exceeded all of my expectations. Summer is a story about imagined and anticipated endings. As we wait and anticipate the summery end of a seasonal cycle and then spend much of summer under the ever present weight of its impending end, the characters in this novel are all imagining and anticipating endings. In this way, what could easily have become an exhaustingly bleak state-of-the-nation (the world?) narrative instead becomes a hopeful one. This is a story where we are reminded we can all be heroic in big and small ways. Human connection; individual kindnesses will save us all. Fittingly, Summer draws together all the threads you want it to from the earlier books in the quarter, but stands on its own; a story of our times.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michael Livingston

    This is a slightly flawed book, but it's still somehow perfect. Smith's relentless optimism about humanity is maybe necessary in what is surely the first covid novel. The cracks sometimes show - imagine trying to write a 2020 novel as the world lurched from one crisis to the next. But still, what a project this has been - she's a giant. This is a slightly flawed book, but it's still somehow perfect. Smith's relentless optimism about humanity is maybe necessary in what is surely the first covid novel. The cracks sometimes show - imagine trying to write a 2020 novel as the world lurched from one crisis to the next. But still, what a project this has been - she's a giant.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Vesna

    What a beautiful conclusion to Smith's great seasonal quartet, speaking to our modern times with her extraordinary literary craftsmanship, memorable gallery of fictional characters (Daniel Gluck will remain one of my favorite characters ever) with their interconnected life stories transcending the boundaries of time (this time the 1940s/2020 parallel was subtle yet quite powerful), and profound humanity. It starts with the punch into the face of indifference to the sufferings of others and ends What a beautiful conclusion to Smith's great seasonal quartet, speaking to our modern times with her extraordinary literary craftsmanship, memorable gallery of fictional characters (Daniel Gluck will remain one of my favorite characters ever) with their interconnected life stories transcending the boundaries of time (this time the 1940s/2020 parallel was subtle yet quite powerful), and profound humanity. It starts with the punch into the face of indifference to the sufferings of others and ends with the moving lyrical coda about how little it takes to be a decent human being despite the pressuring cacophony of intolerance or equally abominable indifferent silence, and how much difference it can make in the lives of others. What happens between these opening and concluding lines is simply a literary treasure. I am in awe and moved beyond words. Thank you, Ali Smith. There are some exceptional and detailed reviews by GR friends to leave very little to add of general interest: Gumble's Yard, Paul Fulcher, Fionnuala, Hugh.

  24. 4 out of 5

    But_i_thought_

    The writing in Smith’s seasonal quartet always feels effortless, blithe, urgent and lightly disheveled — written at a breakneck speed and best consumed at a similar pace. In Summer, we find Smith’s trademark wordsmithery in top form, binding past and present, time and memory (Art in Nature / Art Inertia, internet / internment, meander / me-ander). We also revisit characters from earlier novels (among them my favourites, Daniel and Elizabeth from Autumn), who mingle with a few new ones. The succes The writing in Smith’s seasonal quartet always feels effortless, blithe, urgent and lightly disheveled — written at a breakneck speed and best consumed at a similar pace. In Summer, we find Smith’s trademark wordsmithery in top form, binding past and present, time and memory (Art in Nature / Art Inertia, internet / internment, meander / me-ander). We also revisit characters from earlier novels (among them my favourites, Daniel and Elizabeth from Autumn), who mingle with a few new ones. The success of the quartet has always been as much about timing as about content — each book reflecting and digesting the events of the year as and when we are experiencing them. Autumn (2016) was the first Brexit novel. Winter (2017) grappled with the rise of Trumpism. Spring (2019) looked at environmental activism and the issue of borders. Each installment became a kind of pressure release valve, or art-as-social-relief: “Creativity is cultural not because it is derivative of it, but because it aims to heal culture. Art saturated with the unconscious acts like a compensatory dream in the individual: it tries to rebalance and address deep-rooted problems”. This is where Summer (2020), I believe, falls flat. The major defining events of 2020 — COVID, lockdown, the BLM protests — remain, for the most part, mere footnotes to the story (early events, such as the Australian wildfires, are more vividly rendered). This may be because the majority of the novel was written and conceived pre-pandemic, with only a few details and concluding chapters reworked to reflect the events of the year. The result often feels like a novel in denial, or a mish-mash of different worlds. The first few chapters, for example, set up a theme of forgiveness (“Forgiveness is the only way to reverse the irreversible flow of history”) which feels very much at odds with later chapters (a critique of the UK government’s handling of the pandemic and a look at the rage propelling BLM protests). To me, Summer would have worked far better as one or the other: a frank, pre-pandemic book, or a much delayed, re-worked novel that fully grapples with the fallout of 2020. Perhaps that is the point. We are experiencing so much upheaval at present that art can no longer keep up with it, can no longer reframe the chaos. Autumn – my favourite in the series by far – was whimsical, magical, meditative. This lightness, applied to the events of 2020, feels misplaced. As a round-up to the formidable quartet, I was yearning for something more weighty, more digested – a fresh perspective on the challenges of 2020. Mere name-dropping, unfortunately, did not spell catharsis for me. Mood: Rushed, disjointed with notes of hope Rating: 6.5/10 Also on Instagram. Related reviews Autumn Winter Spring

  25. 4 out of 5

    David

    Growing up in Maine, we used to claim a fifth season between winter and spring: Mud. It was the least popular and most derided, and I never missed it until today. What I wouldn't give for a universal Mud Season so that Ali Smith had one more book left to create in this fascinating series. She's a terrific writer with a brilliant mind and huge heart. I would read her shopping list. 4.5 stars Growing up in Maine, we used to claim a fifth season between winter and spring: Mud. It was the least popular and most derided, and I never missed it until today. What I wouldn't give for a universal Mud Season so that Ali Smith had one more book left to create in this fascinating series. She's a terrific writer with a brilliant mind and huge heart. I would read her shopping list. 4.5 stars

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    As with the previous books that comprise the Seasonal Quartet, Summer, published at the end of August 2020, references events in immediate news -- the pandemic lockdown (which many of us are still living under), the murder of George Floyd in May that set off worldwide protests, the political upheavals fomented by the Brexit effect and the Trump administration. The Quartet, began 4 years ago with Autumn, is on reflection more like a single novel of over 1,000 pages, but one that Ali Smith could n As with the previous books that comprise the Seasonal Quartet, Summer, published at the end of August 2020, references events in immediate news -- the pandemic lockdown (which many of us are still living under), the murder of George Floyd in May that set off worldwide protests, the political upheavals fomented by the Brexit effect and the Trump administration. The Quartet, began 4 years ago with Autumn, is on reflection more like a single novel of over 1,000 pages, but one that Ali Smith could not have envisioned in its entirety due to the immediacy of material in each installment. And yet, characters' entire story arcs span the narratives, and Smith's prodigious intellect, curiosity and interest in lesser known artists, many of whom died prematurely, lead a reader down rabbit holes with astonishing results. As she puts it, "...that's what art is, maybe. Something that impresses mysteriously on you and you don't know why." There may come a time in the future when I have a few weeks to invest, that I may begin with Autumn and read all four in order, without years in between, these books are THAT good.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pickle Farmer

    3 1/2 stars. I liked this much better than “Winter” and “Spring.” I realised several important things while reading this book (somewhat stupidly). This… is not four stand-alone novels, it's ONE big novel. What I REALLY should have done was just wait for “Summer” to be published, and THEN read all four of them. That… was a mistake. Another important thing I realised: in my opinion, this is less of a “novel” than it is a performance. Or a painting, or a photograph. Think Jack Kerouac on his typewrit 3 1/2 stars. I liked this much better than “Winter” and “Spring.” I realised several important things while reading this book (somewhat stupidly). This… is not four stand-alone novels, it's ONE big novel. What I REALLY should have done was just wait for “Summer” to be published, and THEN read all four of them. That… was a mistake. Another important thing I realised: in my opinion, this is less of a “novel” than it is a performance. Or a painting, or a photograph. Think Jack Kerouac on his typewriter, clacking away. Maybe I will feel differently in five years. But for now, what these novel(s) purport to be is to capture what it’s like to be alive, now. A now that always fades. As a result, the novel(s) often read like a Bingo game of What’s Happened Recently (in “Autumn,” it was Brexit; in “Winter,” it was Trump; in “Spring,” I think it was border detainments of children?, and here in “Summer,” it’s the virus). A third important thing I realised: taking the time to review what happened in previous books before reading this one made a HUGE difference. With “Winter” and “Spring,” I just plunged right in. If I hadn't reviewed what happened before, I WOULD HAVE BEEN REALLY CONFUSED ABOUT WHO WAS WHO AND WHAT WAS HAPPENING. So, I HIGHLY recommend doing this. I now think there was probably a lot of stuff that I missed in "W" and "S". At her best, Ali Smith is incredibly moving to me, with her sincere, Joni Mitchell-esque raw heart-on-her-sleeve passion and enthusiasm for trees, birds, fields, Dickens, obscure artists and filmmakers. At her worst, she reads like preachy YA - cringey and didactic. There is literally a sentence in this, spoken by a teenager girl, that is along the lines of “my already trampled on generation will be evermore resilient.” It’s unfair to nitpick sentences from a book (and maybe this is arguably the voice of the CHARACTER?), but… I just hate feeling like I’m being given a bunch of ‘statements’ about how shit Boris Johnson is. That just doesn’t read like literature to me. I thought a lot about Eudora Welty’s essay “Must the Novelist Crusade?” while reading this. I’ll have to go back to the Welty essay to remember her argument, but basically, I hate the parts in this where I feel like Smith is crusading, or lecturing. I like being able to figure things out for myself. The main theme I took away from “Summer” as a novel was the idea of engagement in art – what are the different ways that art can try to engage with issues in ‘the real world’? This is captured most memorably in the section set in the detention campon the Isle of Man, where tons of German and/or British-German intellectuals and dada artists were detained. It was SO interesting to read about this and I’m glad I took the time to google certain names, to see if they were real people (they were - Fred Uhlman and Kurt Schwitters). I really LIKEd being able to SEE FOR MYSELF the parallel between this and now! As always in Ali Smith, we have: - Puns (David Copy-field, bee drone vs. machine drone, internet vs. internment). - Obscure women artists (I always enjoy these sections!) - Historical figures (Einstein, Chaplin) - Nature (swifts) - Current Events (Greta Thurnberg, Australia fires, internet harassment and, of course, the virus) Themes include: - The power of language (the passage where Smith delves into the roots of the word letter, up to Boris Johnson comparing Muslim women to letterboxes, is very interesting. I like this kind of writing so much more than Iris' rants, which I just skimmed). - Time - History; change - Old people and young people (the 104 year old character in this book is only 2 years older than MY grandmother…!). - The role and playfulness of art - I like the idea of how “the artwork [must outartist the artist.” Overall, I approached this very reluctantly, but finished it feeling on the whole quite pleased. The passage near the end, of Grace in the field by the church, is REALLY strong. I’ve criticised fans of Ishiguro and David Mitchell for being whiny little bitches who keep saying they “waaah I like their old stuff” better, and basically… I have to stop being a whiny little bitch myself! I gotta let it go. Ultimately, I liked the novel. This is a project I will need to revisit in a few years so that I can properly sort out my thoughts about it. But there is definitely some strong stuff here. “Goodness is more like a turnip! … foulness just wants one thing, more of its self. It wants self self nothing but self over and over again." My thanks to Hamish Hamilton for the ARC via NetGalley.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gemma

    I found Summer more uneven than the other three books in this quartet. At about the half way point it begins to run out of steam. I couldn't help feeling Covid and the lockdown was rushed into the novel - as it inevitably was - and didn't quite sit comfortably there. We know a lot more now than we did at the beginning of the pandemic when Smith wrote this and many of her observations already seem either clichéd or outdated. That said, I enjoyed the return of Daniel and the story of her chosen ar I found Summer more uneven than the other three books in this quartet. At about the half way point it begins to run out of steam. I couldn't help feeling Covid and the lockdown was rushed into the novel - as it inevitably was - and didn't quite sit comfortably there. We know a lot more now than we did at the beginning of the pandemic when Smith wrote this and many of her observations already seem either clichéd or outdated. That said, I enjoyed the return of Daniel and the story of her chosen artist for this book, Lorenza Mazzetti.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Well, this was a great ending to the series, even if marred by (one more) real life disaster we are all living through. I guess the concept of this quartet did not quite imply for something like this to happen but I'd say that Ali Smith did her best in this respect. As with Spring I listened to Summer on audio and, again, strangely enough it works very well this way. I was excited to meet some of the "old" characters as well as some peculiar new ones and finally learn more about Hannah. I think Well, this was a great ending to the series, even if marred by (one more) real life disaster we are all living through. I guess the concept of this quartet did not quite imply for something like this to happen but I'd say that Ali Smith did her best in this respect. As with Spring I listened to Summer on audio and, again, strangely enough it works very well this way. I was excited to meet some of the "old" characters as well as some peculiar new ones and finally learn more about Hannah. I think it's fair to say that every word in this beautiful quartet has its meaning and its connection to things happening both inside the books and in real life. I am looking forward to rereading all books in a more rapid succession to make sure that I get more of these connections than on the first read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Reading Summer in the depths of the pandemic moved me to tears in the same way that Julie Taylor’s staging of The Lion King did when I saw it after 9/11...touched and overwhelmed in a dark time by its artfulnesss, beauty, light and warmth. Also, in Smith’s case, made joyous in a time of isolation by all the connections and Easter eggs she draws out of the earlier volumes of the quartet. I love her blending of personal and big picture stories and the overall playful spirit despite the weightiness Reading Summer in the depths of the pandemic moved me to tears in the same way that Julie Taylor’s staging of The Lion King did when I saw it after 9/11...touched and overwhelmed in a dark time by its artfulnesss, beauty, light and warmth. Also, in Smith’s case, made joyous in a time of isolation by all the connections and Easter eggs she draws out of the earlier volumes of the quartet. I love her blending of personal and big picture stories and the overall playful spirit despite the weightiness of some of the themes. A lovely gift Ms Smith has shared with us!

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