Review: Summer

Summer by Ali Smith
379 pages
Published by Pantheon, 2020
Genre: Fiction
Re-readability: We’ll probably revisit this quartet someday
Rating: Indiana’s: Pete’s:
Team review
Spoiler-free review


“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?

Summer.”

~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!

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