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The Accidental

3.33  ·  Rating details ·  9,469 ratings  ·  1,064 reviews
Winner of the Whitbread Award for best novel and a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, The Accidental is the virtuoso new novel by the singularly gifted Ali Smith. Jonathan Safran Foer has called her writing “thrilling.” Jeanette Winterson has praised her for her “style, ideas, and punch.” Here, in a novel at once profound, playful, and exhilaratingly inventive, she transfixes us wit ...more
Paperback, 306 pages
Published April 10th 2007 by Anchor (first published May 26th 2005)
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Average rating 3.33  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,469 ratings  ·  1,064 reviews

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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
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Michael by: Teresa
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
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
I feel like there was an age, or it IS that age, where writers love to explore with much keenness the family unit, for it is the perfect structure with which to scrutinize its individual 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 4, or five, protagonists are given a v ...more
Feb 03, 2011 rated it did not like it
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 liter
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
Jan 03, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, 2017, usa
This started off really good.
But it just died on me. I found it got really boring.
Did not finish
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 and step-f
Jul 10, 2015 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
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's
The accidental-on-purpose?

Everything is meant. -- Alhambra

In music, an accidental is an unexpected note that is not part of the scale associated with the song's key or mode. So, for instance, if a song is written in the key of D major, an F (which is not in the key of D major) would be an accidental. Enter the allegorical figure, the Trickster of mythological renown, to F-up (sorry) -- and in the process, freshen up -- the drone of life.

How to describe the Smart family -- especially the parents, Eve, a successful/>Everything
Adra Cole Benjamin
May 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: writers and poets
Recommended to Adra 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 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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.
Apr 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 (i
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2018
*July 2018 Bumping this rating up to four stars because I am still thinking about it a month later. Sometimes it’s best to sit on your feelings for a bit. *

This is really hard book to rate. I really enjoyed the writing style and the way the story was told. Ali Smith’s writing style was a little hard to get into at first. She writes in a stream of consciousness style and doesn’t use and punctuation to denote speech. But once I was used to it, it was easy to read. I never got confused
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 the undervalued, the buried and the silenced. It comes ...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
Feb 27, 2009 rated it it was ok
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 char
Abbie | ab_reads
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

Ali Smith has yet to disappoint me and I’m so thrilled about that! The Accidental was an absolute joy to read, and with the exception of one tiny chapter (I had the same issue with Hotel World), it was perfection. The chapter in question was written in verse and I don’t get on with poetry.
The Accidental is the bizarre story of a young woman who wanders into a family’s holiday home and insinuates her way into their lives. Each member of the family thinks she’s th
Feb 13, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 20, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Oct 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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 02, 2008 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 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 those friendl
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
NB - this was my first Ali Smith and I wrote this review back in 2009.

Ali Smith is an author I’ve read about – and it always seems that the reviews either a) praise her b) condone her so I was quite pleased to find out that ‘The Accidental’ made the the 1001 list. I’m even more pleased at the fact that I am part of the former category as well. Yes, I’m now a fan.

The Smart family are dysfunctional. Astrid only views life through her handheld camera, her brother Magnus is s
aPriL does feral sometimes
‘The Accidental’ by Ali Smith:

Literary award winning style - check!
Literary award winning structure - check!
Literary award winning story - well, I don‘t know. Maybe.

The character of Amber is a classic one of the mysterious stranger who arrives and changes everything. Although she reminds me of a 1970 hippie, she is thirty years old and very educated. She sleeps in her car despite having been invited by the Smart family to stay in their home. The Smart family a
Mar 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it did not like it
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 e
Clever writing saves this book from mediocrity. The storyline wasn’t that original but the play on words lifted this book to a higher level. I enjoyed this enough to want to read more from this author.
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Tournament of Books: The Accidental 4 85 Aug 13, 2019 02:40PM  
Reading 1001: The Accidental 2 13 Dec 31, 2018 09:28AM  
The Accidental 6 83 Feb 20, 2018 10:20AM  
What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Fiction about a stranger (woman) who moves in with a family. [s] 3 21 Sep 03, 2017 01:28PM  
What's the Name o...: SOLVED. A little girl and her video Camera [s] 5 173 Feb 22, 2015 04:45PM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: #4 - The Accidental by Ali Smith 1 4 Jan 21, 2015 08:29AM  

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Ali Smith is a writer, born 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 how it for ...more
“There are things that can't be said, because it's hard to have to know them.” 35 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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