by Smith, Ali

Follows the experiences of a thirty-something lecturer in London who muses on love, art, and life through her relationship with her centenarian former neighbor.

Ali Smith is the author of many works of fiction, including the novel Hotel World, which was short-listed for both the Orange Prize and the Man Booker Prize and won the Encore Award and the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award, and The Accidental, which won the Whitbread Award and was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize for Fiction. Her most recent novel, How to be both, was a Man Booker Prize finalist and winner of the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, the Goldsmiths Prize, the Costa Novel Award, and the Saltire Society Scottish Fiction Book of the Year Award. Born in Inverness, Scotland, Smith lives in Cambridge, England.

England is at a turning point. Brexit has just passed and xenophobia and electric fences are dividing the nation. At 32, Elisabeth is still trying to decide what her future holds, and the widespread national uncertainty has left her feeling unsettled. As the nation erupts around her, she looks to her past for comfort, visiting her mother and Mr. Gluck, the neighbor who helped raise her. Daniel Gluck, now more than a century old, was once a constant friend to Elisabeth, but now he lies in a deep sleep that might be his last. Visiting weekly to read to him, Elisabeth realizes how little she knows about the man who was once her devoted companion. Man Booker Prize finalist Smith (Public Library and Other Stories, 2016) slowly builds a sparse picture of Daniel's past and his influence over Elisabeth's future. With a strong nod to British pop culture, its eponymous art movement, and mid-century feminism, the reluctantly revelatory nature of this story creates a well-rounded allegory symbolic on many levels. The start of Smith's Seasonal quartet, this is delightfully cerebral and relevant. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

A girl's friendship with an older neighbor stands at the center of this multifaceted meditation on aging, art, love, and affection.Smith (Public Library and Other Stories, 2016, etc.) opens this volume, the first of a planned quartet featuring each season, with a man washed ashore naked. He wonders if he is dead. He sees a girl nearby and sews himself some clothing from leaves after a needle and a bobbin of gold thread appear in his hand. From dream or fantasy, the narrative shifts to hard reality: the man, Daniel, next appears asleep in a hospital bed in the present time, age 101. His visitor is Elisabeth, age 32, a university lecturer in art history who has just endured the painful comedy of bureaucracy while trying to renew her passport at the post office. She met Daniel when she was 8 and needed to interview him for a school project. The book will jump around in time as Daniel introduces Elisabeth to puns, storytelling, and art, especially that of a woman he loved named Pauline Boty. She was an actual U.K. artist of the pop era who made a brief appearance in the movie Alfie. Her work included a portrait of Christine Keeler during the Profumo Affair, and Smith has fun with Keeler's court appearances. History is also current, as Smith touches on the friction caused by Brexit nationwide (with a pointed opening allusion to Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities) and in one town where some undefined menace arises with the installation of large electrified fences. Smith has a gift for drawing a reader into whatever world she creates, even when she bends the rules of fiction, as she did also in her previous novel, How to Be Both (2014). Smith's book is a kaleidoscope whose suggestive fragments and insights don't easily render a pleasing pattern, yet it's compelling in its emotional and historical freight, its humor, and keen sense of creativity and loss. Copyright Kirkus 2016 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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