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There But For The: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Ali Smith
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.95
You Save: $5.05 (34%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Kindle Edition $9.95  
Hardcover $17.46  
Paperback $10.47  
Audible Audio Edition, Unabridged $15.95 or Free with Audible 30-day free trial
Audio, CD, Audiobook, Unabridged $24.58  
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Book Description

From the award-winning author of Hotel World and The Accidental, a dazzling, funny, and wonderfully exhilarating new novel.
At a dinner party in the posh London suburb of Greenwich, Miles Garth suddenly leaves the table midway through the meal, locks himself in an upstairs room, and refuses to leave. An eclectic group of neighbors and friends slowly gathers around the house, and Miles’s story is told from the points of view of four of them: Anna, a woman in her forties; Mark, a man in his sixties; May, a woman in her eighties; and a ten-year-old named Brooke. The thing is, none of these people knows Miles more than slightly. How much is it possible for us to know about a stranger? And what are the consequences of even the most casual, fleeting moments we share every day with one another?

Brilliantly audacious, disarmingly playful, and full of Smith’s trademark wit and puns, There but for the is a deft exploration of the human need for separation—from our pasts and from one another—and the redemptive possibilities for connection. It is a tour de force by one of our finest writers.

Editorial Reviews


“So much more than the sum of its parts. . . . This fine, unusual novel is sweet and melancholy, indulgent of language and of the fragile oddballs who so relish in it.”
       —Publishers Weekly [HC starred review]
(Literate Housewife)

“The sweet lilt in Anne Flosnik’s intonation lifts this unusual audiobook to a notable height. . . . Smith’s prose is successful more often than not with its thought-provoking plot twists and unconventional characters. Listeners hoping for something different will find what they seek in this recording.”
(Publishers Weekly)

“There is often concern that a complex or experimental novel doesn’t translate well into audio. The belief is that you need to closely study what has been written. I don’t doubt that this is true in some cases, but not here. There But For The made a wonderful audiobook. Anne Flosnik, who is fantastic at interpreting what must have been a daunting novel, provided vocal cues that helped me navigate the landscape.”
       —Literate Housewife

“Flosnik’s narration is well paced and entertaining, and this—coupled with Smith’s playful language, rhymes, songs, and imaginative plot—will enchant listeners.”
       —Publishers Weekly


She's a genius, genuinely modern in the heroic, glorious sense -- Alain De Botton One of the most inventive writers we have. She jumps from high places and lands on her feet -- Jackie Kay Smith is a brilliant storyteller Time Out Hurrah for Ali Smith! The Times Quirky, intricately put together New York Times Exceedingly clever and subtly wrenching ... this novel is a marvel Washington Post Exhilarating Marie Claire A warm, playful, dazzlingly written modern fable Irish Independent A playful yet erudite celebration of words... Smith's prose is not just supple, it's acrobatic Daily Telegraph A tour de force -- Lionel Shriver Financial Times Playful, humorous, serious, profoundly clever and profoundly affecting Guardian

Product Details

  • File Size: 1037 KB
  • Print Length: 396 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0241143403
  • Publisher: Anchor (September 13, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004J4X7A8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #273,689 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant. Absolutely Brilliant November 22, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
'There but for the' isn't an easy book for me to write about, because it is one of those rare books that one doesn't just read but actually experiences, participates in. It's not a book to be breezed through for the plot. You have to work at it, often backing up and rereading to make connections between events, characters, and words. But often that work surprises you by becoming infinite play, even as it leaves you with some startling observations about human nature, language, memory, and the world we live in.

Taken separately, each of the words in the title seem nondescript; together, they seem empty without the expected conclusion--without, in other words, God or grace. And maybe that's exactly what Smith intended: to make us ponder the place ("there") of God and the location of grace in a society that is technologically advanced "but" individually isolating. (Think about the person with 5000 'friends' on Facebook.) It may be hard to find, but, ultimately, Smith concludes, grace is still there, within and between us.

The novel consists of four chapters, one for each word in the title, each focused on a different narrator. As many of the reviews below note, the basic premise is that a man attends a dinner party, walks upstairs between the main course and dessert, and locks himself into the spare bedroom, refusing to come out. But the real stories are inside the heads of the narrators. Anna ("There"), a fortyish single woman bored with her job, is surprised to learn that her email address has been found in the interloper's (Miles's) cell phone, pushing forth long-forgotten memories of the continental tour she won as a teenager.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An uneven exploration of personal connections October 19, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm not entirely sure what I expected from this book, but it certainly wasn't this. While the book is built around the framework created by odd behavior of Miles Garth, who locks himself in a spare room in a house where he is a dinner guest, this book isn't a single coherent story. Instead, it is really a set of reflections by people who are impacted by this action, even if it isn't immediately obvious how or why. While we never really get any deep insight into Miles or his action, we do learn a great deal about the people he has interacted with. But none of these people know Miles well, and while his actions cause them to reflect on their own lives, they do not have any answers to the questions raised by Miles's decision to barricade himself in a stranger's home.

Written in an almost "stream of consciousness" style, the pacing of this book was a bit uneven, with parts very readable and other portions dragging. There was a point in the middle where I wasn't sure if it was worth the effort to finish. The pacing did improve, though, and the final section proved to be the most entertaining, so it seems to have been worth plowing through.

This book is probably not for everyone, and I suspect that the response to this will be fairly polarized, with people either loving or really hating it. If you enjoy books that are full of character self-reflection, and don't mind the lack of any real plot, then this might appeal to you. However, if you need action in you books, then give this a pass.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ...grace of... September 13, 2011
Scottish writer Ali Smith is a veteran writer of the unwanted house guest. In The Accidental, an uninvited woman shows up at a residence and turns the family upside down. In her latest novel, Miles Garth, a dinner party guest in Greenwich, leaves the dinner table, exits upstairs, locks himself in the spare room, and declines to leave. Miles is the nominal central figure of the novel, yet it is his "absent presence" and other paradoxes of human nature that are pivotal. His silence is the roar that emanates alienation.

The main characters of the four chapters, entitled There, But, For and The respectively, experience a pressing solitude (one character describes the Internet as "a whole new way of feeling lonely"). Three have met Miles at some point in their lives, but none of them know him intimately. Anna, who is also known as Anna K (as in Kafka's The Trial; or anarchy; or "Anna Key in the UK," a Sex Pistols cover), knew Miles briefly as a teenager when they both won an academic competition to travel to various European cities. She remembers him as confident, spirited, and arch.

Anna's former job at the Center for Temporary Permanence is reminiscent of Jonas's in How to Read the Air. As senior liaison, she condensed the trauma stories of individuals so that their narratives fit onto one page of a document. "You have exactly the right kind of absent presence," her former boss tells her, referring to her forced remoteness from her clients. Temporary permanence and absent presence amplify the tragic isolation of contemporary society. Now in her 40's, Anna is experiencing an existential crisis of identity and alienation.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Brainless!
Not a very good book - I discarded it before finishing it - quite boring.
Published 15 days ago by Nazard
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Beautiful. Wrenching.
Published 1 month ago by Chandrakant
3.0 out of 5 stars inspired by review of transgressive female writers
I bought the audio book with high hopes. The enchanting accent soon became unbearable, and I began to wonder if this book would have been better read, than listened to. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Corina Palmer
5.0 out of 5 stars Takes a bit of effort, but it's worth it
The way that she uses language is incredible! I certainly found the book hard to get into, but once I was there I found it masterful. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Sam Wells
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but annoying
Good but annoying in two ways. I hate it when I have to read many pages before I know what character is being written about, or how this character is related to the rest of the... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Terrible Terrie
4.0 out of 5 stars Quirky
This is an unusual story. Last year or two years back I gave out copies of this book at the holidays. I enjoyed it as a quirky story.
Published 13 months ago by BringData
1.0 out of 5 stars Not worth purchasing
I personally hated this book and so did a few of my book club members. I hope our next pick is better.
Published 15 months ago by LARinVA
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the best books i've read
From the first page, this book drew me in and blew my mind. It isn't like other books, let's put it that way. Read more
Published 17 months ago by snoozecat
5.0 out of 5 stars Relish
In rapid succession, phrases and words, ideas and characterizations blasted from the page as private questions that sent me musing on levels and in directions I hadn't seen in a... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Craig Korthase
2.0 out of 5 stars Not enough interest
A little too all-over-the-place for me. Or maybe not enough resolve, or rather too little desire FOR a resolve. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Monica
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