Title: Summer (Seasonal #4)
Writer: Ali Smith
Publishing House: Hamish Hamilton
Date of Publication: August 6th 2020
Rating: 3 stars
‘’No point in asking anyone else to hold your world.’’
In the last instalment of the monumental Seasonal Quartet, Ali Smith introduces to families that have to fight their own demons, siblings who view the world differently, mothers whose vocation was lost somewhere in the process of having a family, couples that can’t decide what they want from their lives, ideas that have gone awry, evils of the past that are still pretty much alive and kicking. People thrown into the tides of forces that can bring us all down.
‘’It’s just what happens, she says. A sad tale’s best for winter. So Shakespeare injects sadness, like a device, a playwright’s device, he infects things with winter precisely so that he can have summer, make a merry tale come out of a sad one.’’
Ali Smith comments on populism, Anti-Semitism, hatred, the terror of war, climate change and all the themes I’ve encountered on Winter and Spring. There are quite a few absolutely striking, absolutely breathtaking moments of beauty, serenity and poignancy. References to the myth of Artemis and Actaeon (But someone confused Prometheus with Loki and I am not a fan…), Art, Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale, Dickens and Kafka. Frightening scenes of the persecution and massacre of the Jews by the Nazi monsters, instances when language becomes a field where absurdity and common sense begin a futile battle. The beauty of Smith’s writing is undeniable. But Summer felt like a book I had read before. Repeatedly.
I don’t know and I am not capable of explaining why there was something lacking when compared to Winter and Spring. The German sibling subplot didn’t really work for me and the non-linear narrative within the same chapters was unexpectedly tiresome. In addition, certain themes grow repetitive after two instalments, to the point of obsession. And I am tired, really, really tired of politics and politics and politics and a discussion that leads nowhere. I never discuss politics, I never read about it. I am exhausted and sick and tired.
I was heavily disappointed with the characters. The only ones I found remotely interesting were Grace, Charlotte and Mazzetti whose personality went to utter waste by Smith. In my humble opinion, she should have been granted a significant portion of the story. The rest of the dramatis personae seemed to me either indifferent or (more often than not…) a bunch of fanatic idiots that enjoy parroting Twitter mottos. Not impressed, I am sorry to say.
Obviously, I am glad I read it but I was far from thrilled. Someone stated that the Seasonal Quartet is actually a long novel. Well, yes, obviously. But not every chapter in a novel is interesting or impeccably written. And in my opinion, Summer fell short. I hope that Autumn will ‘’speak’’ to me in a thundering manner.
‘’But that’s summer for you. Summer’s like walking down a road just like this one, heading towards both light and dark. Because summer isn’t just a merry tale. Because there’s no merry tale without the darkness.’’