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The Accidental

3.26  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,080 Ratings  ·  717 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 May 26th 2005 by Hamish Hamilton
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Non-Winners of the Man Booker
46th out of 206 books — 166 voters
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150th out of 320 books — 19 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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This was a fun and surprising read with lots of scintillating wonders in its delivery and content. It falls into the box of “experimental writing”, but it flows along so fast and spritely compared to many a turgid, self-important postmodern of doorstop dimensions. Ali’s opening epigraph from John Berger was a perfect set-up: “Between the experience of living a normal life at this moment on the planet and the public narratives being offered to give a sense to tat life, the empty space, the gap, i ...more
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
Jan 23, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it did not like it  ·  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
Jan 17, 2010 Erin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Alicia B.
Jun 12, 2008 Alicia B. rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jul 21, 2015 Suzanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was phenomenal. Skillfully structured, beautifully written, with a story that kept me flipping pages past my bedtime. The story is told from four different POVs with a stream of consciousness bent and occasional experimental flare, as in the segment narrated in poetry by the serially philandering husband/step-father/English professor, Michael. Twelve-year-old Astrid’s imaginative flights of fancy, pre-teen jargon and maybe hints of ADD were an amusing ride (don’t be alarmed, it’s not all li ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Aug 05, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it really liked it  ·  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
Barry Pierce
Jan 18, 2015 Barry Pierce rated it liked it
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.
Jul 05, 2014 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
"Eve’s head was full of sentences which she’d been practising overnight. Who is to say what authenticity is? Who is to say who owns imagination? Who is to say that my versions, my stories of these individuals’ afterlives, are less true than anyone else’s? She was going to answer every question with a question. This would let her answers seem open, let her seem willing to be discursive, at the same time as be rhetorically cunningly closed."

What is it with Ali Smith?! I want to hold her shoulders
Nov 02, 2010 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
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
Feb 27, 2009 Carrie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 28, 2007 Robin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 13, 2008 Tyler rated it it was ok  ·  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
Feb 28, 2010 Wanda rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
If I said Ali Smith's book was formulaic, it wouldn't be a bad thing. Not necessarily. Beginning, middle, end. Formulaic as in formula, as in an equation. The two halves of the book open up, meet in the middle, a simple addition and/or subtraction. Accidental? Nothing is accidental but artificial? Yes. Again, not necessarily a bad thing. Artifice is the air of fiction, is the ground upon which cinemas are built. And the = sign, somewhere in there is the =, and to both sides we'll have our values ...more
Nov 02, 2015 Steven rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.

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
Ben Babcock
Dec 23, 2008 Ben Babcock rated it did not like it
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
Dec 19, 2015 S. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Exhilarating. The kind of book you hate to finish because whatever you read next is going to pale, pale, pale beside it. The story centers around a family renting a summer house in rural England and where they all are at in their lives and in some cases terrible troubles when a blonde stranger named Amber barges in. Amber charms them all, and the reader, too.

I fell in love on page 12 with the voice of 12-year old Astrid: “They are all asleep. Nobody is any the wiser. Any the wiser sounds like a
Paul Secor
Jun 22, 2015 Paul Secor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second Ali Smith novel I've read. The first was There But For The. There are all sorts of wonderful things going on in The Accidental, and I'm sure that there were some I missed (Ali Smith is that sort of writer), but I didn't feel that this novel held together as well as
There ....

It seems as if Astrid in this novel was a warm up for Brooke in There But For The. (less)
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
Oct 03, 2015 Maxwell rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own-it, 2015
Ali Smith always impresses me with her writing. It's part philosophical musing, part poetry and part stream-of-consciousness that you'd think would be too difficult to read but in reality flows perfectly like water across the page. I often equate her with David Mitchell in my mind, in that they both have such distinct writing styles and regardless of the stories I always enjoy the prose. But this one's story didn't have enough substance and the characters weren't fleshed out enough to back up th ...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
Carlos Clorth
Nov 04, 2015 Carlos Clorth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, xxi
Accident - - - something that cannot exist in itself - - - but in the substance as a property of the entity. - - - My artistry is a bit austere. The begining - Ali Smith's prose is like a weird animal you feel fascinated about but also disgusted - That said I like how this first part was developed (Astrid - Magnus - Michael - Eve - Amber?) involving prose change. It being very original. I liked all the characters except Magnus whose thoughts I thought repetitive and boring. I also like the absen ...more
Joan Winnek
Apr 24, 2010 Joan Winnek rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 23, 2009 Dawn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 08, 2010 Carys rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 21, 2011 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
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
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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.” 24 likes
“Oh. To be filled with goodness then shattered by goodness, so beautifully mosaically fragmented by such shocking goodness.” 8 likes
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