About Me

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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

"Autumn" by Ali Smith

Elisabeth Demand sits by the bedside of dying Daniel Gluck, her centenarian neighbour, reading to him and reflecting on her friendship with him. It is the months after the Brexit referendum, someone is putting electrified fences up to enclose common land, and Elisabeth is battling her way to the front of the queue in the downsized Post Office to renew her passport only to be confronted with questions about her identity. Her own identity has been stolen. This is a collage of episodes. Elisabeth did her dissertation on Britain's only female Pop Artist, the now-forgotten Pauline Boty, who painted a lost portrait of Christine Keeler and had an uncredited part in Alfie. An advertisement for a supermarket uses music written by her friend Daniel, music which is now trending on social media; Gluck also wrote lyrics for a song a Barbra (Streisand?) sung in concert but never recorded. Elisabeth's mum appears on an episode of a TV show in which amateurs comb junk shops looking for treasures. It is as if our lives are made from disposable ephemera and who we are is made of glimpses.

Another fascinating and thought-provoking work from one of Britain's most original contemporary writers. The novelist as collage painter?

Other works by this brilliant and repeatedly original author that I have read and reviewed in this blog include:
  • The Accidental: a holidaying family is gatecrashed by a young woman
  • There but for the: a set of stories linked by a man who, at a dinner party, locks himself into one of the upstairs rooms of his host and refuses to come out
  • How to Be Both which has two halves which can be read in either order (and some copies of the book are printed one way and some the other): one half has a teenage girl trying to cope with the death of her mother; the other half is the exuberant reflections of a renaissance artist who was a woman pretending to be a man.
  • Artful which is both a ghost story and a meditation on art
  • Winter, another collage type work which weaves the story of a Christmas Carol with Cymbeline and the Nativity and reflects on Britain following the Brexit referendum.

Great quotes:

  • "Is there never any escaping the junkshop of the self?"
  • "Don't just sit there like an unstrung puppet."
  • "Crying came out of her like weather."
  • "Like entering what you think is going to be history and finding endless sad fragility."
  • "The symphony of the sold and the discarded. The symphony of all the lives that had these things in them once. The symphony of worth and worthlessness."
  • "I like nakedness. I mean who doesn't to be honest? I'm a person. I'm an intelligent nakedness."
January 2019

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