In essence it is about a platonic relationship between an elderly man and a girl who grows into a young woman. It is a book about youth and ageing and Elizabeth’s mother appears to be the voice of society when she disapproves of the unlikely friendship. Daniel Gluck and Elizabeth Demand met when they where neighbors whilst Elizabeth was a child, now in 2016 Daniel is 101 years old and is in a care facility an “increased sleep period”. Elizabeth visits him frequently and it is implied that this is the twilight of his very long life.
The sand in the mouth and his eyes is the last of the grains in the neck of the sandglass.
The prose is often very poetic and dreamlike, especially in the sections dealing with Daniels visions whilst he is comatose. This is contrasted by the seemingly mundane accounts of Elizabeth in the post office to use the passport check and send service. And her mothers appearance on a television antiques program. The narrative jumps around all over in time and space so if you prefer linear books this may not be for you.
It is also very present in 2016 post referendum Britain and there are sections that try to portray the xenophobic attitude of many of our populace at this time.
All across the country people drew swastika graffiti. All across the country, people threatened other people.
The pace of this book is fairly sedate, not a lot actually happens and I have taken over a week to read it. It has been a great book to read just before bed due to the dream imagery. It is beautifully and clearly written and at 259 pages it is not a long book.
I found it interesting to note that we never get much of a sense of what Daniel did with his life (apart from a small note near the end) and the fact that being a retired person he is no longer defined by his previous occupation. There are hints and Elizabeth’s mother trying to guess but it is not something that he discusses, it is no longer important.
If you like your books linear and clear then this is not the book for you, but personally there was enough of a sense of time to make this book easy to understand. This is a book that would stand rereading, and I may make connections I didn’t the first time. Although there is no sex, violence or anything that would make it unsuitable for young readers, I don’t think that this book would be enjoyed by them as much as by adults. There is not much action or anything very much happening within the pages, however I did really enjoy reading it.
Buy this book on Wordery.
About Ali Smith
Ali Smith is a woman born in Scotland on the shores of Loch Ness now resides in Cambridge. She has written many novels, some of which have been shortlisted for many important prizes and How to be both was the winner of the 2014 Goldsmiths Prize and of the Novel Award in the 2014 Costa Book Awards.
This book appears to be part of a series with Winter due to be published in November this year.