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The Accidental [Paperback]

Ali Smith
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
Price: £6.29 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

6 April 2006

The Accidental is Ali Smith's sparkling novel about a family holiday and a stranger who upends it.

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 irrevocably transform our understanding of ourselves, The Accidental explores the nature of truth, the role of fate and the power of storytelling.

'A beguiling page-turner. . . a brilliant creation. To read The Accidental is to be excited from first to last' Independent

'Joyous, a shot across the bows. . . writing as rapture, as giddy delight' The Times

'Brilliant and engaging, frequently hilarious. . . Smith makes one look at the world afresh' Sunday Telegraph

Ali Smith is the author of novels Girl Meets Boy, Like, The Accidental, Hotel World and There but for the. She has published the short story collections The First Person and Other Stories, Free Love and Other Stories, Other Stories and Other Stories and The Whole Story and Other Stories. She has been twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, twice nominated for the Orange Prize and won the Whitbread Novel of the Year in 2005.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 305 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; 1st Penguin edition edition (6 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141010398
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141010397
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 12.5 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 31,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"Astonishing. . . . Vivid and affecting. . . . Wonderfully supple, jazzy." -"The New York Times" "Persistently sparkling pages...of startling and clarifying emotional power. . . . It casts a spell." --"The Atlantic Monthly" "Completely captivating. . . . Thoroughly charming and melodic. . . .Devilishly lovely." --"The Boston Globe" "Beautifully executed. . . . A few pages [in] and you begin to remember how much fun it is to put yourself in the hands of a skilled, majestically confident writer. . . . Delightful." --"The New York Observer" "Brims with wit, humor, and energy." --"The Christian Science Monitor"

About the Author

Ali Smith was born in Inverness in 1962 and lives in Cambridge. She is the author of Free Love, Like, Other Stories and Other Stories, Hotel World and The Whole Story and Other Stories.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
My mother began me one evening in 1968 on a table in the café of the town's only cinema. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Even better second time 31 Jan 2007
I am wondering if all the negative reviews are partly because the reviewers are not from the UK- I think it is very evocative of a place and a time, and full of specific cultural values(white middle class,urban, academic). I found this book profoundly interesting and moving. I felt that all four family members who were so stuck at the start of the novel, developed and moved on by the end. Smith managed to create four entirely believable voices and at different points I felt sympathy for all of them.The various writing styles are sustained brilliantly and I felt that each character's story was equally strong. It felt very much a story of the UK now and the struggle for families to stay together and understand each other in the face of a difficult and depressing world. It definately warrants a second reading. As to whether Amber is real, a device or a ghost, she is an amazing force and stayed with me long after I finished the book.

It is not straightforward, or an easy read- you are made to think and puzzle and reflect- and a good think that is when most of the time we are not challenged by books, tv or film!
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Genius or just trying too hard? 14 May 2006
By Beca
As the title of this review suggests, my feelings about this novel are complex and I don't think I can adequately answer the question I have posed myself. There are moments of pure genius within this text - pieces of narrative that literally sweep you up with their ingenuity. Smith certainly excels when utilising her own unique stream of consciousness style and this alone makes the book worth reading. I also found the structure satisfying, with the sense of full circle achieved at the end. What lets this text down is the occasional sense that it is just trying to be that little bit too clever, a little bit too self aware of its status as a story telling medium. Three stars may be a little harsh - three and a half more accurate. I would certainly recommend this to anyone who enjoys an author unafraid to play with the novel genre but prepare to feel a little disappointed. This feels like the work of an author on the way to greatness but not quite there yet.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and misunderstood 29 Oct 2006
By Emily
I don't write that many Amazon reviews but given some of the negative ones for this book, I had to. Personally, I thought the book was absolutely brilliant and, as others have said, the change in narrative tone depends on who's doing the narrating. As for Michael, he was a fantastic comic figure, especially in his middle section, the one written in verse. I take my hat off to Ali Smith for being able to move between prose and poerty in that way, but for anyone who doesn't like poetry, you can read it just as prose. It works that way, too.

The reason for four rather than five stars is the slightly disappointing ending. Although we don't really need to know who Amber really is, the three passages about her do suggest there are clues to her identity and it would have been nice to know what that identity was. And while I had no problem with Eve in the States, the suggestion that she might be going to retsart the whole cycle was a little silly: the point about Amber was that she was totally unique.

This is clearly one of those novels, though, that people either love or hate and to be honest I can't imagine haiting it. It's frequently called pretentious, too, which I didn't think it was at all (and I loathe McEwan et al for their pretension.) I hope to read a good deal more of her work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accidentally stumbling across entertainment 25 Sep 2011
Ali Smith certainly doesn't need me to point out what seems to be happening,she has displayed a virtuoso level of walking a mile in someone elses moccasins when telling the story from five independent perspectives. In fact there is another perspective too, that of the narrator, when Michaels sense of hoplessness, regret and even shame at his addiction becomes revealed.
I guess to have read a lot of different writers and become comfortable with their devices with be a help in "getting in to " this book.
I loved it from the outset, the butterfly flitting of the egocentric teenage girl's mindset sets the ball rolling with gusto,and there are some musings from this character that made me actually laugh out loud - like the part when she notices (poor Michael - he comes in for the most stick doesn't he) that her step father is singing the latest pop song in an apparent attempt to be cool - "he's such a loser", and more insults that I won't spoil for you.

The function that Amber performs in this highly disfunctional family is to give each of them a taste of what she thinks they all need, whether they want it or not.
I envied Magnus, while not identifying with him particularly.
I remember this kind of device being used some time ago in a novel (whose title escapes me-) when a stranger joins a boating party - again in Norfolk, and each of the participants thinks one of the others has invited them to join. Its a similar theme, the stranger takes a lot more control over the situation than any of the others has managed so far and changes life for them all in some way.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars BORING!
Published 1 month ago by YOSEFA ZEEVI
1.0 out of 5 stars Not to my liking!
I read this because it was a book group choice. However I could not see the point of the plot or characters. I can not recommend it.
Published 2 months ago by Margaret Lovegrove
5.0 out of 5 stars Think I will become one..
this is a very challneging book to read initially. no idea really where its going but it certainl;y gets somewhere. keep reading. Its worth it.
Published 2 months ago by L. K. Rowley
5.0 out of 5 stars A Christian Allegory, I think.
I have just finished reading The Accidental. I I understand it is a redoing of Pasolini's film Theorem. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Paul Halsall
2.0 out of 5 stars What was it all about?
There were five main characters each as boring as the other. There were no chapter headings. Each "section" started in the middle of a sentence as if you had been dropped... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Sheila
5.0 out of 5 stars Just great
This is a fantastic and different bit of literary fiction. If you love reading I don't know how you couldn't love this book.
Published 6 months ago by Ben
1.0 out of 5 stars This style of writing didnt engage me
This book was recommended in "The Week" - good books about family life. The person recommending it said she found it original, magical and hilarious. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mrs. S. M. McALPINE
3.0 out of 5 stars The Accidental by Ali Smith
Rather a weird style of writing - rather unusual - written from the viewpoint of a 12 year old girl whose behaviour is very out of control for my liking. Read more
Published 9 months ago by katharine goodwin
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure genius
This book is pure genius. The character of Amber comes into the life of the Smart family is portrayed so subtly and with such conviction that the reader's disbelief is suspended. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Anna
1.0 out of 5 stars Interesting style, but lacking substance
Ali Smith has a gift for writing in a way which brings the reader very close to her characters. But the down side of this is, it gets boring. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Sue
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Are we to understand that Amber is Alhambra? 0 19 Nov 2008
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