In the present, Sacha knows the world’s in trouble. Her brother Robert just is trouble. Their mother and father are having trouble. Meanwhile, the world’s in meltdown—and the real meltdown hasn’t even started yet.
As vibrant and warm as the time whose title it bears, the novel doesn’t sacrifice either Smith’s intellectuality or her playfulness. And though it can be fully appreciated by newcomers to the Smithian calendar who start the annual cycle here, those who have followed her through the year will delight in the subtle linkage of themes and characters from the other novels ... as today’s headlines, an opportunity for Smith to share her cool, frequently caustic take on current events ... as today’s headlines, an opportunity for Smith to share her cool, frequently caustic take on current events ... Though summer is referred to only glancingly, as was the case with the seasons in the other novels, when Smith evokes it she does so beautifully ... full of both portent and mirth, angst and joy, at least of a tempered variety. Richly allusive, it will send some readers back for another visit to the volumes that preceded it and will prompt others to do the same to catch up on all the delights they’ve missed.
In a novel that is, like all of Smith’s, rich with references, characters quick to share stories about artists and their work, and the misfits and heroes of history, Summer is more than a perennial season. It is the bravura performance of a writer, poised at the edge of the day’s vast darkness, gathering all the warmth and light of our inner summer.
There are so many links between the novels that someone has actually made a Seasonal Quartet bingo card, where players tick off squares such as 'Eloquent non-native English speaker” and “Bureaucracy' ... Summer delivers these tropes with aplomb and serves as a skeleton key to the series. Whilst the three other novels can be read and appreciated independently, Summer, much like the season itself, shines brighter through the memories of Autumn, Winter and Spring. ... However, as everything is slowly revealed to be linked and the true breadth of Smith’s project is realised, one begins to realise that the Seasonal Quartet has been a lie. These have never actually been four independent novels, but rather four sections of a single, massive work, with Summer serving as the showstopping finale ... And what a finale. Summer is simply astonishing. Most of us had little doubt that Smith would deliver (because, realistically, has she ever produced a sub-par book?) but Summer somehow exceeded every one of my expectations. It is fitting, in my mind anyway, to think of the Seasonal Quartet as a symphony. Summer is the final movement, all joy and celebration, a climax that has been building for some time. Themes and motifs from earlier movements appear once again, in rondo form, as the orchestra plays all at once. Then bang, whimper, it all ends. There is deathly silence followed by a manic crash of applause.