it wasn’t until the third day that the temperature started to drop.
The humidity before the rain left the house. A icy damp joined with the cooling earth. At first it was refreshing, a cooler morning. But it didn’t warm throughout the day, the house held the cool so well. Bundling everything we could we created huddles of blankets, pillows, our bodies. We forgot about the lack of entertainment, the rain stayed and we struggled to stay warm.
On the second day it begun to rain.
The grass was stained. It turned a dirty brown. The tree by the shed died before the end of the second day. The dog got sick from drinking from its water bowl. The sky wasn’t grey. Birds and bats and possums fell from trees.
The toxic rain continued all day and all night.
On the first day we lost electricity.
Black screens. Asleep as the night rose. The soon to be absent glow of mobile phones. The fridge now a white whale in the room. The last hot showers.
The shared humanity that binds us has had a few moments when all hope seems lost. Humanities ability to be inhumane is well documented; none more so than the Nazi era. There is no series of events that have shaped every aspect of culture for so many. It still lingers through art, literature and film. And here Sands passionately and elegantly with how the people and their actions of Nazi Germany helped shape international human rights, international treaties on genocide and set precedents for laws protecting the individual from the state and groups from other groups. The only good thing coming from the close to 20 year period of Nazi influence over Europe? Perhaps.
Sands maps a personal and professional connection from Polish-German-Ukraianian-Russian city of Lviv through World War I, the Great Depression, through the early days of Hitler and the subsequent human crisis of World War II. The deeply personal connections are so well drawn showcase how we are all interconnected and if only we realised this deep connection could we prevent what was to come.
This is deeply satisfying and sad addition to the story of a world where Nazism was dominant. I found the legal evolution of crimes against humanity and genocide profound. There’s so much of the language that the Nazi used still being thrown around today- about refugees, about Muslims, about groups against groups. Is there another period of humanities inability to see their connections?
Oh wow. What a fresh and refreshing novel. Set in the aftermath of Brexit, but travelling between eras through the perspective of Elisabeth and her friend-neighbour-mentor-father figure Mr Gluck. Smith’s ability to capture Mr Gluck’s – ‘call me Daniel’- comatposed state is a work of art.
Elisabeth is an art history lecturer, confronting a new Britain. A Britain that for the first time for many centuries is more insular, inward looking, xenophobic, regressing from the world they helped shape and reshape. The way divided Englnd is shown is raw, honest and deeply sad. Is Smith’s Autmun the kind of work we can expert in a post-truth Trump world? It will be the only thing to look forward too.
Daniel is Elisabeth’s neighbour. Reclusive, eccentric, mysterious. His past- European and the dark history of the 20th century s perfectly positioned to the European England Elisabeth grew up with. His first words every time he sees her capture him perfectly: ‘What are you reading?’
The friendship is more mentor/father than any such formal definition. He is the most singular influence on her life. It’s beautiful thing, a true equal, respectful partnership. After a decade a part she discovers he is in care and on his final days. She sits by his bed reading. The intersection of these painfully beautiful memories from Elisabeth and Daniel that are most dreamy and simply stunning.