Philippa's Reviews > There But for The

There But for The by Ali Smith
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's review
Jun 29, 11

liked it
bookshelves: read-2011
Read from June 28 to 29, 2011

I was initially intrigued by the plot: a friend of a friend brings a stranger to a dinner party. Halfway through, this stranger goes upstairs to the spare room, locks the door and won't come out. No one knows why, and months pass with him still in there and no one any the wiser. It made me think a little of The Slap - an incident at a social gathering that then has reverberations in the lives of every person who was present.

There but for the isn't quite like that though. It doesn't follow any linear conventions. There were parts of the novel that were truly compelling, others fell very short because, to be honest, I couldn't make a lot of sense of them. Particularly the third part of the novel - "for" - that seemed very irrelevant to the rest of the story and I found it very difficult to follow and to place within the context of what had gone before.

The novel is a tangle of language, thought and experience - at times this works very well, at others it is just confusing. I am obviously one of those readers that early reviewers predicted would find the novel a bit frustrating! A bit more linear narrative structure would have made this novel work a bit better for me. But perhaps that was the point, to discomfort. I gave it three stars rather than two because it was somewhere between being ok and liking it. The parts I liked I liked very much.
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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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switterbug (Betsey) Yeah, that's Ali. I read THE ACCIDENT, so I am familiar with her non-linear, stream-of-consciousness style. I suppose it could be disconcerting if you aren't expecting it!

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