Behind a closed door

An invitation to a London dinner party arrives. You accept and invite a man you have known for a handful of hours. The man, Miles Garth, goes upstairs and doesn’t return; all of the guests leave. He remains behind a closed door. There but for the, Ali Smith’s latest novel, tells the story of Miles through encounters with a 10-year-old girl, a 40-year-old woman, a 60-year-old man, and an 80-year-old woman. No one really knows who Miles is, but each encounter provides the reader with entrance to the complexities behind so simple act an act as shutting the door to the world. The span of time forward and backward embraces the history, music, art, drama, poetry and astronomy of the day, interweaving Gershwin, Hockney, Hamlet, Milton and the telescope with atrocities of war, brought to light behind the shadows of time. It reminds us what it is to be human.