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The Accidental

3.22 of 5 stars 3.22  ·  rating details  ·  5,021 ratings  ·  613 reviews
I was born in the year of the supersonic, the era of the multi-storey multivitamin multitonic, the highrise time of men with the technology and women who could be bionic, when jump jets were Harrier, when QE2 was Cunard, when thirty-eight feet tall the Princess Margaret stood stately in her hoverpad, the annee erotique was only thirty aircushioned minutes away and everythi ...more
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published 2005 by Hamish Hamilton
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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodNever Let Me Go by Kazuo IshiguroAtonement by Ian McEwanThe Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time by Mark HaddonCloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Non-Winners of the Man Booker
57th out of 191 books — 144 voters
The Crucible by Arthur MillerDeath of a Salesman by Arthur MillerThe Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore CooperI Capture the Castle by Dodie SmithThe No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Last Names Derived from Professions
150th out of 320 books — 19 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jan 23, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: smug male academics looking for inspiration
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
I cannot believe this book is on the 1001 books list. Do the people who write the list not like people who read books anymore? Why would they punish us so? 1001 list writers, once again I question you. Why?

I didn't enjoy reading it and to say I found the story a pointless and unrewarding read is probably an understatement. The book seemed to be nothing more than a series of poorly strung together literary devices... or maybe it was a vehicle for the trundling out of a series of literary devices
MJ Nicholls
A flat-out triumph of structure, style, shifting narrative voices, rhythm and language. A pitch-perfect technical masterpiece. Split into three components—the beginning, the middle and the end—the story moves between four perspectives: daughter, son, father, mother. Each section describes various events around a holiday trip to Norwich and the arrival of Amber, a charismatic drifter who changes her behaviour to accommodate each person.

A very tight, free indirect style* is deployed to bring the t
Alicia B.
Jun 12, 2008 Alicia B. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers and poets
Recommended to Alicia by: New York Times book list - go fig!
This is a must-read if you are a writer/poet (or poet who loves fiction). It's definitely a writer's book. I can see why many people would dislike it, but it's pure genius. JUST BRILLANT! If you understand lit-heads, poetry meter, characterization, plot lines, emotions, word choice, undercurrent and themes... Well, let's just say you're sure to enjoy and appreciate this novel and its style.

I love how it's broken up into 3 sections (the beginning, the middle and the end). I love how the chapters
K.D. Absolutely
Aug 05, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010)
This novel was shortlisted in the 2005 Booker. This and Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go lost to John Banville's The Sea. I can't believe it!

Compared to "The Sea", this book's storytelling is very innovative. Brilliantly fresh. My first Ali Smith and I thought I was reading the 21st century equivalent of my favorite James Joyce. The first half is alienating because it basically uses stream-of-consciousness with the main characters having their own POVs per chapter and Smith used terms and events
I don't relish giving a book one star, but The Accidental was the rare book that I found so unreadable that I couldn't even finish it. The writing style was very affected and intentionally obtuse, making the book unpleasant and difficult to read. The characters were whiny and self-involved beyond all reason. There were huge logic gaps (such as why Amber was allowed to hang about the house, uninvited and unknown to all of them-- hello?!) and pithy observations. Ugh. I struggled and struggled with ...more
Here is a literary accident: the almost universal exclusion of female writers from a coherent popular-culture postmodernist ideal. Here is Listverse's Top 10 Works of Postmodern Literature: marvel at the readily bandied about names of Pynchon, DeLillo, and Foster Wallace, however the lack of any female writers on the list is perhaps a bigger tell. In the same way that the Woolf-renaissance happened years after her work was published, perhaps it is only in retrospect that critics can pick out th ...more
The Accidental may claim the record for time spent in my reading queue - I bought it over five years ago, and finally got around to reading it this weekend. When I bought it, it had already generated quite a buzz - nominated (unsuccessfully) for the Booker prize, winning the Whitbread. I wasn't sure what to expect.

AS I was reading it, I thought I would end up giving it 4 stars, but in the end I really couldn't justify a fourth star. Which already tells you something about Ali Smith - she is (in
Barry Pierce
I think I can safely say that Ali Smith is one of my favourite authors. This is another great one from the Scottish supreme. Once again Smith adopts her trademark "fuck the rules" style of prose, disjointed and stilted and basically all over the place. Her prose is probably why I love her so much. It's so thoroughly unique and enjoyable. Even though the plot of this once isn't her best it's still highly readable. Ali Smith is a god among us.
I love Ali Smith. She's so inventive and irreverent. The Accidental sprang from a dream she had, and it's dreamlike. Smith often uses multiple perspectives to weave together a story. I happen to like this--and I find her really gifted at inhabiting different voices. Her other book, Hotel World, really knocked my socks off too. But the Accidental asks different questions (Hotel World was kind of a mystery about a girl who fell down an elevator shaft). Questions like: who are we and how do we end ...more
The Accidental is a book with a lot of literary buzz in Britain. It is a finalist for the Whitbread Award and for the Booker. I had heard raves about it on Bookslut, too, so I decided to pick up a copy. I was, however, disappointed.*

I can understand why The Accidental is getting a lot of noise. Its a very "writerly" book and very good in that sense. It's written in a stream of consciousness type style, with every chapter representing the internal thoughts of one of the four main characters - Ast
Nov 13, 2008 Tyler rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tyler by: Lindsey Claeyssen
Turns out the thirty year old Eggleston photo on the cover was my favorite thing about this book. Smith can certainly turn out some lovely prose, and couple it with unique approaches to fictional perspective, maybe along the lines of Virginia Woolf's flowery poeticism and narrative experiments. And there are plenty of interesting pieces of the puzzle here (I feel OK using this cliché since one of the book's characters is obsessed with the idea of clichéd language), but they never congeal into an ...more
Ali Smith is obviously a genius, a savant, a being whose prolific intelligence is a gift not merely to readers, but to humanity. Or at least, her editors seem to think so. (Why not tell a wondrously gifted writer when she’s written too much? When the clever has become the clumsy, the prodigy pedantic?)

This ambitious novel begins by promising to examine one of the most fascinating subjects available to novels and those who love them: the interplay between “real life” and story. Such examination i
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
I like the language of this book. So original, refreshing and innovative. Unlike other writers who experiments with how they write, which often makes their work unintelligible (Oh, Gaddis, how could you?!), here you marvel at Ali Smith's love for words and her story which you'll have no difficulty following.

Probably the newest book I've read so far in the 1001 Books list, this was published in 2006 and mentions Beyonce and David Beckham somewhere. The female 13-year old protagonist, Astrid Smart
I hesitate to write this review because so many people actually liked this book. I frankly found it deliberately obtuse, unaccessible, and pretentious. It was sort of like reading the post-modern philosophers who are so obscure and self-conscious that you wonder if THEY actually know what they are writing about. This was one of our book club choices and we really wanted to like it. The synopsis seemed intriguing, the reviews were glowing for the most part, and it looked like a relatively fast re ...more
when you read novels, like "the millions" hot tips for 2013, bender The Color Master: Stories , schine Fin & Lady: A Novel , and zambrano Lotería: A Novel you think, hey, this is pretty damn good. but then you pick up ali smith, and you realize, she could kick all the millions hot tips asses, PUT TOGETHER!
funny story here of a mysterious stranger, how odd it is to grow up, and pay attention to yourself growing up. and how dreadful it would really be to take a vacation in norwich.

Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
I read reviews, I listen to others talk about books, I seek out books that others rave about, and nevertheless, many books disappoint.

The Accidental did not disappoint.

And how did I run across it? Well, (forgive me this) it was quite accidental. As many good things are.

The Accidental has everything I dream of finding in a good book. It's smarter than me (the most important quality I look for in a good book or a good friend). It has intriguing characters. It has a plot that both confirms and sur
Ben Babcock
Somehow I managed to become trapped inside a world of streaming consciousness, present tense narrative that jumped from inelegant metaphor to inelegant metaphor. I barely made it out alive, swallowing almost fifty pages before declaring defeat and making a strategic retreat to the next book on my to-read shelf.

Thank goodness I got out in time!

Ali Smith's writing style in this book is too jarring for me to get into the story and actually enjoy it. Reading this book took more effort than The Name
The Accidental was the story of a family of four, each with their own difficulties and quirks, who are changed by a mystery woman who appears at their house, stays with them for a while, and then, just as suddenly, departs. The parents, Michael and Eve, and the children, Magnus and Astrid, are a family with no real ties to each other. They don't communicate, they don't try to help each other, they are really only a family in name. Then, one day, Amber appears in their house, each family member t ...more
As a former musician – I use the word ‘former’ advisedly, every time I get near a piano nowadays, four pairs of hands are at the ready to “help” with the notes – the word ‘accidental’ conjures musical connotations. An accidental involves the introduction of a sharp, or a flat, or a natural note, which essentially breaks the rules of the key signature; it results in a note that does not belong to the scale of the piece. This is how I picture Amber, Ali Smith’s mysterious visitor who turns the liv ...more
Ali Smith has a lot of dazzling literary tricks and techniques at her disposal, and she uses them to great effect, yet without neglecting to write an engrossing story with really interesting characters. The narrative concerns the Smarts: mother Eve, son Magnus, daughter Astrid, and step-father Michael. While they are on holiday in a rented house in Norfolk, a mysterious woman named Amber turns up at their house and worms her way into their lives. Amber seduces and manipulates the Smarts, individ ...more
Hmm. I had a difficult time with this book. First it was the writing style. I'm not someone who totally appreciates the more avant garde writing styles popular with contemporary writers. So at first, I was really put off by the writing style because it sort of just came off as pretentious to me. Then I finally got into the writing style, and the story was interesting, and I wanted to find out what happened with these characters. Unfortunately, this book has a pretty unsatisfying ending. I'm not ...more
Aug 03, 2007 Elizabeth added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: intelligent readers
I read this a while ago, and recently someone wrote me to ask what I thought about it. What I remember is that I love Smith's writing, the way she's made stream-of-consciousness completely contemporary and engaging. The story was confusing, and the person who wrote to me proposed such a brilliant (and retrospectively obvious) interpretation of the book. It suddenly all made sense, and I can't remember if I thought of it at the time at all. Anyway. It's a great book, and she's an amazing writer. ...more
Joan Winnek
I loved reading this book, became very involved with the assorted characters and interested in the interpersonal dynamics; also the writing is wonderful and engaging. Whoa! The ending was unexpected, and came on top of other revelations. I'm puzzled, and will probably read it again and/or recommend it to my book club. I am intrigued by Ali Smith and have ordered more of her novels from the library.
I really tried to enjoy this book but I couldn't get what's the main point of the plot itself.

Even if the author tried to use different styles of writing, she didn't get any close to the masterpiece written by Julio Cortazar in his famous book Rayuela.
My second book by Ali Smith and her writing chimes with me. Good psychological observations and surprisingly believable absurdity.
S.L. Beaumont
The Smart family are spending the summer in Norfolk. The mother, Eve struggling with writer's block, her philandering University professor husband Michael, suicidal teenage son and 12 year old daughter on the brink of adolescence. The arrival of a stranger, Amber who ingratiates herself into the family, is the catalyst of this story. Ali Smith's quirky writing style and the myriad of pop culture references make this an interesting read, however, I found the characters unlikeable and therefore it ...more
Disappointing read, maybe due to the fact that I've already read a couple of novels by Smith (so I didn't have the waw!-effect). The characters (four members of a dysfunctional family) remain cardboard figures, their resolutions are weak, their dilemmas - although recognisable - never really heartfelt.
I liked the parts told by Michael, a university assistant and failed poet,as he explores the nature of cliché poetry and prose. Smith's style of writing is as elusive as always, although perhaps a
I very rarely rate a book 1 star. This simply wasn't for me. There is little plot, little action and for me no engagement with any of the characters. The whole book pivots on the idea of a stranger turning up and moving in and turning a family's life upside down - er... no, once it gets destructive you kick her out!!

There several narrators yet all of them have a similar voice and all of them repeat phrases and actions over. eg the 12 yr old repeats the phrase 'sub-standard' sometimes 5 times in
Al Gellene
The Smart family is taking their summer holiday in Norfolk. Eve, the mother, is the author of a moderately popular series of rather quaint books about the hypothetical lives of people who suffered tragic deaths, continuing their life stories as if they had lived. Michael is a literature professor at a mid level English University. His specialty is seducing his students, one in particular every year. Eve has two children by another marriage. Astrid, a precocious 12 year old, spends most of her ti ...more
Bart Mesuere
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21st Century Lite...: The Accidental-the end of "The Beginning" pp.98-105 15 27 Jul 21, 2013 12:49PM  
21st Century Lite...: The Accidental - The Beginning 16 44 Jul 21, 2013 12:46PM  
21st Century Lite...: The Accidental - The Middle 17 19 Jul 21, 2013 12:06PM  
The Accidental 5 72 Jul 05, 2013 07:27AM  
21st Century Lite...: July 2013 - Moderator Pick has been chosen 5 62 Jul 01, 2013 08:46AM  
21st Century Lite...: The Accidental - Structure, schedule 1 25 Jul 01, 2013 08:23AM  
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Ali Smith is a writer, born in 1962 in Inverness, Scotland, to working-class parents. She was raised in a council house in Inverness and now lives in Cambridge. She studied at Aberdeen, and then at Cambridge, for a Ph.D. that was never finished. In a 2004 interview with writing magazine Mslexia, she talked briefly about the difficulty of becoming ill with chronic fatigue syndrome for a year and ho ...more
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“There are things that can't be said, because it's hard to have to know them.” 17 likes
“Oh. To be filled with goodness then shattered by goodness, so beautifully mosaically fragmented by such shocking goodness.” 6 likes
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