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The Accidental

3.29  ·  Rating Details ·  7,354 Ratings  ·  850 Reviews
Arresting and wonderful, The Accidental pans in on the Norfolk holiday home of the Smart family one hot summer. There, a beguiling stranger called Amber appears at the door bearing all sorts of unexpected gifts, trampling over family boundaries and sending each of the Smarts scurrying from the dark into the light.

A novel about the ways that seemingly chance encounters irre
Paperback, 306 pages
Published April 6th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published May 26th 2005)
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Violet wells
I really enjoyed Ali Smith’s How to be Both; this one for me was more hit and miss.

A dysfunctional or normal family – pretty much the same thing nowadays – rents a holiday home in Norfolk. One day a mysterious stranger, a woman called Amber, arrives and ends up moving in with them. All four members of the family metaphorically are very much waiting for an amber light to turn to green and Amber’s redemptive role is to reveal how this light might be changed. The first problem for me was Amber her
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
Jul 10, 2011 MJ Nicholls rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 03, 2011 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 03, 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
Julie Christine
The stranger who arrives in mysterious circumstances and turns a household on its ear may be familiar literary trope, but Ali Smith does it with such panache and vivacity, the familiar becomes fresh and revelatory.

The Accidental shows the rusted and broken bits inside the moral compass of the Smarts, a bourgeois British family of four on summer holiday in a drab northern England town. Eve Smart is mid-list novelist and mother of 17-year-old Magnus and 12-year-old Astrid. Michael Smart, husband
The Accidental takes a well-worn premise – in which the appearance of an enigmatic newcomer upsets the balance of a largely dissatisfied upper-middle-class family – and filters it through that inimitable freeform Ali Smith style.

The characters are knowing cliches. Eve is a kind-of-successful author with writer's block. Michael is a professor who's sleeping with, apparently, all his female students. Moody teenage son Magnus is involved in an online bullying scandal that's resulted in a classmate'
Alicia B.
May 28, 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 10, 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
Oct 03, 2016 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel like there was an age, or it IS that age, where writers love to explore the family unit, for it is the perfect structure with which to scrcutinize its parts ("The Corrections," "White Teeth," "The Red House," the list is almost infinite). & this one, a more accessible and modern "Sound and Fury" is a doozy. Like, what is happening here? is the main question through this dense but very readable firework of a novel. All four, or five, protagonists are given a very democratic framework i ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Aug 03, 2010 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
Apr 01, 2008 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
Jul 03, 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
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.
"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
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
Feb 03, 2016 Stela rated it really liked it
Do you recall those books that make your day (your week, your year ☺)? Those books that laugh at you from cover to cover without malice, reminding you that art is nothing but ludic, that the pleasure of the text (to borrow Barthes’s phrase) consists in blissfully and effortlessly enjoying both form and content? Those books that do you sooo good?

Well, for example David Lodge’s novels have always done this to me. And now, I’ve just delightfully discovered Ali Smith’s Accidental, another one of th
Feb 13, 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
Nov 02, 2008 Tyler rated it it was ok
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
Mar 19, 2016 Lavinia rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, in-en, 2016
This is so funny, smart, fresh, unexpected, postmodern and experimental, I totally fell in love with Ali Smith’s writing. Had I known I’d love it so much, I would have read it a lot sooner. Of course I’m crazy about Astrid (best 12 yo in fiction, maybe?) and Magnus (that passage when he’s at the cinema thinking about Astrid is so, so good, I loved it to pieces). Oh, and the ending - genius.

Feb 26, 2013 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
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
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
bjartur of summerhouses
I deliberately procrastinated finishing this as I didn't want it to end. I am completely enthralled by Ali Smith's writing and want to live in the world of her books as long as possible. Judging by the dismal ratings that she continually receives on GR it is clear that most just do not understand her. Her books are experimental, postmodern, and stream of consciousness that challenges traditional narrative structures. But she rings all my bells and the ending of this one made me snicker with deli ...more
On a technical level, this is better than many of the books I've given 3 stars. For me, though, it doesn't do anything new. Stream of consciousness, parts of the story made of various styles of poems, characters filming their surroundings, alternate chapters belonging to different characters in a group: all devices I've seen quite a bit of in other things I've read recently.

Plus, if you have two litfic stock characters among your main protagonists - a writer the same age and gender as the author
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.

May 25, 2015 Maxwell rated it it was ok
Shelves: 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
Jun 02, 2017 Eva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
probably my favourite book I have read so far this year.
So so good. Will write a proper review on this
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
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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.” 28 likes
“Oh. To be filled with goodness then shattered by goodness, so beautifully mosaically fragmented by such shocking goodness.” 9 likes
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