Summer is the final volume of Ali Smith’s Seasonal quartet. By now if anyone has read the previous three books, one will know the themes which have been present:
The Shakespeare play – here it’s A Winter’s Tale
The Dickens Novel – David Copperfield
The event that happened in the past which is similar to events happening in present day Britain. In this case it’s the detainment in the capital city of Isle of man.
Current events – Climate change, The pandemic and George Floyd’s murder.
The female artist – Lorenza Mazzetti
Plus Charlie Charlie Chaplin, internet behaviour, Einstein, the role of art in society and feminism.
As for characters a lot of familiar faces are now present: Daniel Gluck, Elisabeth, Iris, Arthur and Charlotte
However in Summer there is closure. We now understand the story behind, the stone Sophie (from Winter) used to keep, why Daniel Gluck likes Charlie Chaplin, we finally see Gluck’s sister Hannah’s backstory. There are a couple loose ends tied up but it’s more fun if the reader discovers it.
One thing which I thought was particularly clever was how Ali Smith incorporated Einstein’s theories of time and space to what our world is going through today and presciently there are shreds of optimism. A few months after the book was published Trump was out of the White House and the test subjects for the COVID-19 vaccine reacted well.
Unfortunately while I am of high praise of the first three volumes, Summer is not perfect. At times it feels rushed, some parts are overlong and I did feel that some sections were completely unnecessary. I think it’s the weakest volume of the quartet.
Now that I have read the quartet, I have come to the conclusion that the four books are actually one book. Reading them back to back, one sees developments in the plot – yes, when placed together there is a plot. When one reads Summer one can see plot lines being concluded and mysteries unveiled.
Eventually I will write a review of all four books so I’ll keep it a bit short. I’ll conclude saying that taken as a whole, the whole quartet is probably the most inventive document of the last four years of the ’10’s and Summer, despite the flaws, is a fitting conclusion.