Autumn by Ali Smith Discussion Questions

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The following discussion questions are designed to help you guide your high school students through a structured group conversation about Ali Smith's 2016 novel 'Autumn'.


Autumn is a 2016 novel by the Scottish author Ali Smith that deals with relationships of the soul and mind in a post-Brexit United Kingdom. The book explores the intertwining lives of its characters as well as the soul of Britain itself, so students should come away from this book with lots to talk about even if they aren't up-to-date on British politics.

This discussion is intended for high school students, but can be adapted to other ages if desired.

Questions about Plot, Characters, and Context

  • In a single sentence, how would you describe Autumn? What is this book about? Provide a simple synopsis.
  • How does Autumn begin? What did you think about the way this novel opens? Did it catch you off guard at first? Why? How does this opening set the tone for the novel?
  • How are we introduced to Daniel and Elisabeth? What are the first things we learn about these characters? What was your first impression of each character?
  • How do we get a sense of Daniel and Elisabeth's relationship? What do these characters represent to the other? How is our understanding of this relationship developed throughout the book? How do the recollections of each character play into this?
  • How does Daniel's conscious state impact this book? What do we learn about him and/or Elisabeth through his dreamlike musings? What do we learn about life, relationships, and mortality?
  • The cultural context of this book is very important to it; what is happening in Britain at this time? Have you heard of Brexit? What does it mean? Where do we see the implications of Britain's torn relationship with Europe and its debates over immigration in this book? How do these issues impact the characters of this story?
  • What is the climax of this novel? How does this bring the conflicts, character arcs, and issues of this novel to a point that demands resolution? What is the resolution? How have our perceptions of the main characters changed by this point?
  • How does Autumn end? What do you think this ending means? How did you feel about this ending?

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