November Tea and a Book: Autumn by Ali Smith

Nov 17, 2020 |

I’d been looking for an “Autumnal” story for some time. I really just wanted a good yarn, maybe with a bit of romance and some charming scenery, organized with a beginning, middle, and end (as one might expect). Well! This “Post-Brexit” novel DID NOT fit the bill. Having said that, I must also confess that I absolutely loved it.

The plot (?) or gist of Autumn is difficult to convey, and I find it fascinating that even Penguin’s official “teaser” synopsis is brief and vague:

Daniel is a century old. Elisabeth, born in 1984, has her eye on the future. The United Kingdom is in pieces, divided by a historic once-in-a-generation summer.

Love is won, love is lost. Hope is hand in hand with hopelessness. The seasons roll round, as ever . . .

For more details (possibly too many?), read NPR’s review.

Here’s the deal — this novel is character-driven, non-linear, impressionistic, sometimes baffling but always fascinating. I loved the enduring friendship between Daniel and Elisabeth, and I absolutely adore stories of academics who become obsessed with their subject matter — in this case Elisabeth becomes preoccupied with the art and life of Pauline Boty, the only prominent female pop-artist in 1960s England.

Interesting links:
Interview with Ali Smith at the website
The “Art Story” of Pauline Boty
Mystery of missing art of Pauline Boty from The Guardian.

Perhaps you might relate to this passage in which Elisabeth’s mother vents:

I’m tired of the news.
I’m tired of the way it makes things spectacular that aren’t, and deals so simplistically with what’s truly
appalling. I’m tired of the vitriol. I’m tired of the anger. I’m tired of the meanness. I’m tired of the selfishness.
I’m tired of how we’re doing nothing to stop it. I’m tired of how we’re encouraging it. I’m tired of the violence there is and I’m tired of the violence that’s on its way, that’s coming, that hasn’t happened yet. I’m tired of liars.
I’m tired of sanctified liars. I’m tired of how those liars have let this happen. I’m tired of having to wonder
whether they did it out of stupidity or did it on purpose.

Now for tea:

I adore this cup and plate from the now-defunct Pier 1. 🙁

For tea, I chose the Pumpkin Chai from David’s Tea — “This rich premium black tea is the perfect way to kick off the season. It’s got all the warmth of cinnamon and cloves, plus the sweetness of caramel and pumpkin candy.” It is delicious and festive but also light with just a hint of sweetness. To pair with the tea I ate (far too many) Tate’s Cinnamon Brown Sugar Cookies, which you can find at most grocery stores. DELECTABLE.

As always, if you want to scan through previous “Tea and a Book” recommendations, simply click the “tea and a book” link above — right under the title of this post.

Stay tuned, there’s plenty of Holiday reading recommendations (& more!) coming soon.

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