The stunning Autumn is the first of a projected quartet of seasonal novels by Scottish author Ali Smith, whose earlier novels Hotel WorldThe Accidental and How to Be Both were shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Set in the factional, jingoistic post-Brexit United Kingdom--where "what had happened whipped about itself as if a live electric wire had snapped off a pylon in a storm"--Autumn is a compact story of the unlikely friendship of two neighbors: Daniel, an iconoclastic old man with a house full of art, books and music, and Elisabeth, an impressionable, lonely young woman, 70 years his junior, who harbors a festering grudge against her annoying, self-serving mother. A marginally employed adjunct lecturer in art history, Elisabeth has returned to her mother's house to spend time with now 101-year-old Daniel. He lives in a nursing home where he sleeps through flashing images of his life more often than he listens to Elisabeth read Dickens to him--although he processes enough to conjure his own darker version of A Tale of Two Cities.

The backdrop of Autumn might be social disarray, but the story is one of life going on and the seasons passing. As Smith writes toward the end of her novel: "Here's an old story so new that it's still in the middle of happening, writing itself right now with no knowledge of where or how it'll end." If fall is the twilight of the year, what will Smith's long cold winter bring--and better yet, her spring and summer? --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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