Summer by Ali Smith
Published by Pantheon, 2020
Re-readability: We’ll probably revisit this quartet someday
Rating: Indiana’s: Pete’s:
“In the present, Sacha knows the world’s in trouble. Her brother Robert just istrouble. 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?
~Synopsis from the publisher
Pete: While I wish we’d read this one last summer when it first released, I’m glad we finally got around to it (and in the right season, too). I don’t think this was my favorite book in the series—Spring still takes it for me—but I did enjoy its cast of characters, especially those that returned from the previous books. I think the series would have been more fulfilling if I’d read the books back-to-back.
Indiana: Agreed. Maybe we’ll have to do that over the course of a month. I really enjoyed seeing characters from previous books though, like Charlotte, Iris, Art, etc. It helped make the book feel like a tidy ending to the quartet. As much as I couldn’t stand Robert in the first quarter of the book, I ended up appreciating his and Sacha’s relationship, and I suppose his character after a while.
Pete: He definitely fits a familiar middle-school archetype, one that I’m sure is still as common as ever. As usual, I was impressed by the amount of timely world events mentioned in the story—COVID-19 stood out, especially since Smith must have had only a couple of months to write this book during the pandemic if it was released in July of 2020. Of course, I suppose it’s called “the Seasonal quartet” for its timely nature as well as the seasonal theme of each book.
Indiana: Right, and that must have been difficult to write about COVID-19 when so much about it was changing on a weekly, if not daily, basis. As much as I enjoyed reading these books when they were published (or around when they were published I should say), I’m interested to see how they’ll land a decade or two from now, when we reread them with years-worth of distance from all the political, social, health, etc. crises she mentions.
Has anyone else read this quartet? We’d love to hear your thoughts!