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The Accidental Paperback – April 10, 2007
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Amber is the catalyst who makes the novel happen. She appears on the doorstep of the Smart's rented summer cottage in Norfolk, England, barefoot and unexpected. Eve Smart, a third-rate author suffering writer's block, believes that she is a friend of her husband's. Michael is a womanizing University professor, but he doesn't usually drag his quarry home. He thinks that she must be a friend of Eve's. Everyone is politely confused and Amber is invited to dinner. She is a consummate liar and manipulator who manages to seduce everyone in the family in some significant way.
Magnus, Eve's 17-year-old son from a former marriage and Astrid, her 12-year-old daughter, are easy prey. Magnus is in despair. He played a prank on a classmate and it went horribly wrong when she killed herself because of the humiliation it caused. He cannot shake the guilt and is about to hang himself from the shower rod when Amber walks into the bathroom, the perfect deus ex machina. She bathes him and takes him back downstairs, announcing that she found him trying to kill himself. Everyone titters. Could it be possible? This is a recurring question as Amber's behavior becomes more and more outrageous. Is this really happening, or is it some family-wide delusion? To add to the mystery, there is a Rashomon-like character to the story in that the same events are recalled by the Smarts through their own filters.
This is a completely engrossing novel that raises as many questions as it answers. --Valerie Ryan --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Well, I confess that my feelings vacillated wildly between curious enthusiasm and downright frustration when reading the book. Amber was conceived in a cinema. That much we know....trouble is, that's also as much as we'll ever know about her. Each chapter is dedicated by turns to a "family" character. There's Michael the philandering husband/stepfather, Eve the writer-in-selfdenial wife/mother, Magnus the mixed up suicidal teenage son and Astrid the camera-obsessed changeling of a daughter. The few pages devoted to Amber, the catalyst for the Smarts' miraculous transformation, are more like dividers, consisting of short bursts of social, pop cultural and cinematic history. So who's Amber, why does she affect each member of the Smart family the way she does and what's her motive ? Good questions, but we don't get any answers, so we'd better figure them out for ourselves, mustn't we ?Read more ›
This is an intelligent, carefully structured novel that is both funny and illuminating. A chance trip to watch the movie Love Actually leads Magnus, the confused young son of the family to ruminate on Plato's ideas about Belief and Illusion. Ali Smith is able to incorporate myth and philosophy into her wry look at ordinary modern life in a way that produces an entirely fresh way of seeing. From the minute details of life to the war in Iraq playing in the background, the methods we use to understand things are exposed and questioned. Whether seeing reality through the filter of Astrid's camera lens or the mathematical equations of Magnus, the way we view the world is scrupulously examined. But the characters have a sense that truth is still hidden from them leading them to use new tools to examine it. Ali Smith bravely experiments with language and the form of the novel to re-view life. If her technique is viewed by some as placing literary panache over essential meaning then Smith seems to answer this through her character the novelist Eve who responds, "It's not a gimmick. Every question has an answer." Smith cleverly constructs different paths to bring us to new answers.
Although Smith's stream-of-consciousness writing style takes a bit of getting used to, it is inevitably the glue that holds this fascinating book together. Split into three sections (the beginning, the middle and the end), the story slowly and deftly unfolds as the perspective switches from character to character, narrator to narrator. What we are left with at the novel's conclusion is a patchworked, pieced-together glimpse into a broken down yet blazingly human family before, during and after the strange summer that permanently altered each member and changed their outlook on life (and each other) in mystifying ways.
Before "escaping" for a summer to a rented cottage in Norfolk, the Smarts (12-year-old Astrid, 17-year-old Magnus, and parents Eve and Michael) resemble a typical dysfunctional family. Astrid spends her days either walled up inside her imagination or behind a video camera filming other people's "far more interesting" lives. Magnus sequesters himself in his room, refusing to bathe, eat, or speak to his family after a school prank he masterminded results in a classmate's suicide.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was quite an interesting book. It is written by Ali Smith, a current British writer, yet has a style similar to Virginia Woolf, as it is written in stream-of-consciousness and... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Joseph Mustakas
A pleasant little story in outline - but in fact, a series of tragic events from which all significance was removed by setting them in an old-fashioned bookstore which, by... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Nanny
Ali Smith's The Accidental is bold, playful, exuberant, and with its opening chapter about the very accident of conception itself - one egg, the possibility offered by a myriad... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Lady Fancifull
This is the weirdest book I have ever read. Stream of consciousness writing was a major feature and had zero contribution to telling the story. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Collage Artist
The provocative Amber enters a families life and changes everything. We hear each family member's story and the way they claw back their humanity through the help of Amber. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Amazon Customer
Good read! Somewhat confusing.
Great references (movie).
Well enough written I suppose, but I just couldn't care about any of the characters. I liked the writing style, I liked the structure, the story should have been good... Read morePublished on January 22, 2014 by tarsh
Do you appreciate post-modern award winning deconstructed writing, or do you find the mental gymnastics required to follow the plot in such cases disconcerting and exhausting? Read morePublished on November 20, 2013 by Billy Boy