In February we read Autumn by Ali Smith, the first post-Brexit novel that captures the turbulent time of the United Kingdom. It was a difficult read and we definitely felt like some things went over our head, but also that Autumn really deserves to be re-read. Today we’ll recommend some other books you can try if you like Autumn and we’ll also share some discussion questions at the end in case you’re reading this book with your own book club!
Ali Smith has written many novels, but I’m recommending How to be Both because I got interested in reading that one after Autumn. How to be Both is a novel that has two different narratives, one about a Renaissance artist and the other about George, a girl in the 1960’s. The book is published in different versions, one starting with the story of the artist and the other with the story of George. It doesn’t matter which way you read it, but at the same time, both reads will be a different experience.
Autumn gets compared to Keats a lot, but T.S. Eliot could be another influence on the novel. In Four Quartets, the poet delves into the cyclical nature of life divided over four poems. Autumn is also part of a quartet, one spanning the seasons and natural recurrence of life.
Exit West, written by Mohsin Hamid is the other big post-Brexit novel. It’s about a country teetering on the brink of war and two young people who fall in love. When the violence escalates, the couple tries to escape by using magical doors that have the power to whisk you away, but always for a price. The fictional world of Hamid is eerily close to our own world now and what it could become.
- Why does the quartet start with Autumn as the first installment?
- Autumn holds up a mirror to our current years. How do you think this novel will age?
- The novel has a lot of different elements – Pauline Botty, Christine Keeler – that don’t have a lot to do with each other. Is the novel messy or more like a collage?
- How did you read the ending of the novel? Is it hopeful or depressing? What will Winter bring?