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The Whole Story and Other Stories

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  666 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
From the critically acclaimed author of Hotel World comes a collection of uniquely inventive stories that thread the labyrinth of coincidence, chance, and connections missed and made.

What happens when you run into Death in a busy train station? (You know he’s Death because when he smiles, your cell phone goes dead.) What if your lover falls in love with a tree? Should you
ebook, 192 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2003)
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MJ Nicholls
It’s official. I am not as smitten with Ali Smith the story writer as I am with Ali Smith the novelist. Isn’t that usually the case? It’s either one or the other with writers. Could Barthelme write a decent novel to save himself? Nah. (Don't link me to The King. Puh-leaze). Could Barth write a short story to save either himself or Mrs Barth? Nah. What about Martin Amis’s short pieces? Oh please! So it goes. There are stories in here I adored, most notably ‘The Universal Story’ which toggles narr ...more
Jan 18, 2010 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Barbara by: TERESA has introduced me to this author's books
I rarely read short stories, but reviews of Ali Smith were interesting, so I proceeded accordingly. Her writing is delightful and novel. One could best describe her style as "stream of consciousness". As I read, I could not resist the thoughts of a Mother Goose rhyme, "This is the House That Jack built..." It is known that these ditties are actually varieties of cultural contexts. This particular cumulative tale, which is not really about Jack, describes how the house has indirect links and rela ...more
Feb 17, 2014 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I just finished a reread of this for discussion with an online group/friend. When I participate in a buddy or group read, I generally don't feel like I have anything else to say afterwards (or maybe it's more accurate to say that I don't feel like rehashing what was discussed.)

My rating of stars stays the same. The stories that were my favorites stayed my favorites. The others didn't captivate me nearly as much this time around now that I know even more of her works and her style. (Feb 17
Aug 10, 2015 Deea rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
I only liked "Universal Story" from this volume of stories. The others were trying too much to be good and they weren't or they were really unfocused and weird. I like weird, but not the kind of weird I found here.
My wife and I grabbed this one earlier in the summer at the library sale in Louisville. I had read Hotel World a million years ago after buying it at the Strand and recalled its haunting, inchoate characters. Memories of that appear rather reinforced by some observations in London a year or so later.

I read the first two stories around the time of its purchase and found both intriguing. The third story, the protagonist sees Death at the train staion, I felt glib and stopped there. I read the for
Feb 05, 2009 Kai rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This collection of stories has a flop or two. Some less than interesting tales. But the ones I love are made for photocopying and mailing to your ideal lover with pressed flowers and a photo of that feather you found in a graveyard.
Feb 16, 2014 Cathrine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
re-read this story by story with an online group :-)
late 2013
early 2014

Some of these are purely deliciously all that is wonderful about Ali :-)
Jul 18, 2008 Issy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
These were pretty creative but they lacked any sense of urgency.
Sep 26, 2016 Kirsty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Merely to be a gushing Ali Smith fangirly, I thought that I would begin this review by saying that it is really cool to open a library book written by someone so prolific and to see ‘local author’ scrawled on the front page. If you had not guessed from this, I adore Smith’s quirky writing and creative stories, and she is certainly one of my favourite authors.

Before I begin each one of Smith’s short story collections, I know that I will very much enjoy every single tale which has been included w
Jan 18, 2016 Kat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ohhhhh man ali smith is so good
Jun 08, 2010 Ashleigh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, short-stories
The Universal Story
I loved the use of repetition and elaboration on the same story in this one. I loved the descriptions of the books, particularly the one about the Great Gatsby from 1974 what was yellow but is now more white and the picture sepia. I felt that was just, for some reason, stunning. I loved how the books were used as a boat. I loved the little intricacies that normally you wouldn't get. 4/5

I really enjoyed the subtle, warped humour of this one. How every customer had a n
Sep 28, 2016 Kriselle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I like the writing style but it all just really kind of... flowed off of me????
Wye Peng
Nov 22, 2015 Wye Peng rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The universal story
- Starts off in a bookshop and is kind of centered around a book. I love the way this story was told, like a baton being passed along from viewpoint to viewpoint. 5/5

- This is about a girl who works in a bookshop. I love anything set in a bookshop and the humour in this was great. 4/5

Being quick
- This is about a couple. One person is at home waiting for the other, whose train is suddenly stopped and delayed and so he decides to walk home but with his phone dead and no wa
Sep 19, 2016 Nazlı rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nov 13, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I love Ali Smith. I enjoy her novels, but it's with her charming and quirky (oh god, I hate that word but it seems so apt!) modern short stories where she really excels. They are stories about life - of course they are about life - but an odd, dislocated, disconcerting life. Peculiar lives being lived in peculiar ways, its true, but also incredibly ordinary people living these lives.

From the story of a man searching for hundreds of copies of The Great Gatsby (which, oddly, I had read just befor
Jun 25, 2008 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sharp literary mind and exquisite technique, Smith executes this short story collection with fervor and interest. In my first reading, I have discovered the tremulous strings that attach relationships and how even the bizarre can open a person's eyes to a reality so good and pure that it has to be embraced.
On the whole, The Whole Story and Other Stories is a book I enjoyed, but I had to think very hard through it. I can quickly see it becoming a favorite, but it is definitely not a book you ca
May 27, 2012 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read a collection of short stories in years, and it was nice to get back to it with this quiet and internal collection from Smith. I enjoyed the interesting narrative techniques she played with throughout, and I was struck by a strange sort of loneliness in each story. That loneliness was sometimes sad, but it was also sometimes hopeful, and I liked the balance.

Smith had a number of stories that shared a first-person narrator: a first person narrator in a two-character story switches t
Jargon Slunce
Feb 25, 2015 Jargon Slunce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: werk, queer-lit
these stories shed a lot of light on smith's later work. if you have started by reading one of her newer novels i would suggest reading this collection and if you are thinking of reading something by her for the first time you can't go wrong with these stories. the variety of voices and the elegant shifting of the emotional atmosphere within the individual stories as well as throughout the collection as a whole is humbling and absolutely delightful to experience. it is impossible to say which st ...more
Feb 18, 2015 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 2003, this was Ali Smith at her most experimental. Two years before this she wrote the Booker shortlisted "Hotel World" which I thought was very good. But here her collection of short stories were mainly too bizarre for my taste. But there is one marvellous exception. "Paradise" is the longest story by far and is actually three stories in one, each probably about three sisters, although the last one doesn't have a name.

However some of the other stories are too fantastical, although no one wi
Aug 15, 2011 Emilie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Ali Smith. Hotel World is my favorite, but this novel is quite different. Smith ends the novel with plaguing questions. At this point, the reader has figured out that all of the stories told are intertwined, yet the ending is all too vague. I have a love/hate relationship with writers who like to leave loose ends when everything is expected to be definite. The mystery remains unsolved in a world that is so IMPATIENT. Maybe Ali Smith is trying to teach the lesson of patience or... That you ...more
I love Ali Smith-- I like the way she writes, I like the way she messes with narrative structure, I like the way her novels feel. But most of these stories fell a little flat for me. They aren't bad, and if this had been my introduction to Smith I would have probably been curious to read more. The patterns she uses and the way she plays with the structure of the stories begins to feel repetitive after a while, in a way that the novels don't. And fair enough, it doesn't necessarily have to be all ...more
Apr 27, 2009 Margaret rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having just finished reading this book in Washington Square Park while witnessing someone being arrested, I subsequently tried to explain Ali Smith's style to a friend: "Her stories and characters are kind of crazy, but crazy in a way that makes complete and total sense, or would if you were not aware of the existing infrastructure of the universe and human relations."

Not sure how successful I was in making my point, but I love reading about people being chased by a bagpipe band in full regalia
Francesca [utterlyUncool]
This was my first Ali Smith and my first short stories collection; I have to say I loved it.
Her writing style is lyrical, sometimes delicate other times stronger, but the imagery is always superb.
The theme that flows through the stories is the feeling of the characters: most of the action is inside their head, in the description of their thoughts and feelings, rather than in a complex storyline, and that aspect I appreciated very much.
The most beautiful story, in my opinion, is being quick, ot
Oct 20, 2012 Marian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
There's much to enjoy here: breezy, effortless style, clever structural play, the writer's brimful confidence, curiosity and charm, the strong sense of place infusing most of the pieces. The story I love best, "Paradise," the tale of a Scottish tourist town on Loch Ness and three semi-miserable young sisters who dream of escaping it, is one of the few that carried much emotional punch. I admired most of the stories, with their light touch, their mystery, their sheer joy; I would've liked a littl ...more
Sarah Thorogood
Mar 10, 2016 Sarah Thorogood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first book by Ali Smith, despite seeing her books on the shelves before now. And I wasn't disappointed, I'm already looking forward to the next one! I'm more of a novel reader, so enjoyed the difference to reading short stories, as well as getting an idea of how they can be written (for any future competitions). I love the quirky style and tone of the writing, almost a little surreal in places, but a brilliant observation of people, I was a bit disappointed when each story ended, I w ...more
Oct 25, 2012 Emma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This might be my favorite collection of Ali Smith's. Every story has two sides, making it feel complete even though no answers are offered. The characters/voices in these stories are as human as possible, and yet we know so very little about them. Even gender is barely a factor. On a delayed train: "We're all in it together, we told each other in shrugs, in little jerkings of the head, what can we do?" Smith has a way of exposing the skeleton of relations between humans, whether romantic or just ...more
May 29, 2008 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of the stories in here are amazing. "being quick" makes me cry every time I read it. I gave this book four stars and not five, though, because not all of the stories are that great. I guess that's a little unfair, because if a novel had moved me as much as some of the stories in here, I wouldn't have thought twice about giving it five stars. But short story collections demand that you read, engage, disengage and go on to the next, so it's only fair to give each story more or less equal weig ...more
Ka see sattus täiuslikku aega ja kohta. Ali Smith on ikka novelli/short story meister, imetlusväärne ja imeline. Eelmine sobis puhkusele, see sobis maale, puhtjuhuslikult palju lugusid puudest ja väikelinnadest ja muudest.

Blurb on seekord spot-on: "A lark, a heartrush, a love-letter to the world". Mu lemmikblurb vist.
Ja üldse! Pean veel Ali Smithi lugema! Tahan veel! Ka järgmisesse kohta oma Smith! (Mul on üks ta novellikogu veel; keskkoolis ma lugesin neid kõiki, aga ma ei tea, kas hindasin pii
This collection of short stories is told primarily in a stream-of-consciousness style of writing with very little character description, hardly even gender-identifying pronouns, and minimal plot, really. The perspective shift the author employed in most of the stories was very clever, and I enjoyed her quiet sense of humor and the occasional brilliant line, but overall, the stories felt disjointed and unfinished, like reading someone's freewriting journal.
Gina Lyle
Smith beautifully attempts to tell the 'whole story' in this collection of short stories in her use of multiple perspectives. Relationships are explored from both sides, and ultimately these tales are uplifting. People fall in love with trees, call home from 24 hour supermarkets, build boats out of daffodils. Truly charming, without giving into sugary twee-ness, Smith's voice crafts a beautiful tone in The Whole Story.
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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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“Outside the leaves on the trees constricted slightly; they were the deep done green of the beginning of autumn. It was a Sunday in September. There would only be four. The clouds were high and the swallows would be here for another month or so before they left for the south before they returned again next summer.” 15 likes
“Tonight I can smell the season the way it's usually only possible to at the very first moments of its return, before you're used to it, when you've forgotten its smell, then there it is back in the air and the flow of things shifting and resettling again.” 11 likes
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