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The Accidental Hardcover – 10 Jan 2006


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 305 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon Books (10 Jan 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375422250
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375422256
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.7 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,786,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"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" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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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

2.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E. Mills on 23 Oct 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Initially I stopped reading this book about 3 chapters in but then after a couple of weeks I was suffering from bad insomnia and thought it might help me sleep. It did. By about halfway through I'd decided I wanted to review it so I knew I needed to finish it, as I don't believe it is fair to review a book if you haven't finished it!

The chapters alternate, each chapter being voiced by either the mother, step father, the daughter or the son. There are also two chapters voiced by Amber the interloper. Her chapters are quite frankly not worth reading, they add nothing to the story and tell you nothing about her character other than she quite possibly may be a schizophrenic.

For some reason which I am sure the publisher and droves of 'serious reviewers' must understand and believe to be very clever, the author believed herself to be above the rules of English grammar and so you have to muddle through with no speech marks; which frankly is just really tiring on the eyes and somewhat frustrating, also some chapters start mid-sentence.

Apart from this, the story, which could be an interesting depiction of a nuclear family, goes nowhere. It literally just ends. Weird things happen, with no reason. Nothing is concluded. As for all the rave reviews and prize winning nominations? I can only presume, that like the emperor with no clothes, there are a lot of pretentious 'literary' types feeling very 'smart', while the rest of us laugh at them for being sucked in!
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Beca on 14 May 2006
Format: Paperback
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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ripple on 9 Mar 2007
Format: Paperback
This book seems to have divided reviewers into love it or hate it camps. I am afraid that I don't think it is either genius or rubbish. It's simply an interesting book that is not without its flaws, but it is quite thought provoking without being profound. There is nice variation in the character voices - particularly of the daugher - and the premise is while not exactly unique, at least unusual. I suspect that because it doesn't spell everything out and lets the reader do some of the work that this is why it causes such diversity of opinions and I have to say I quite like books that continue to ask questions even when you've finished it. I'd give it 3and a half if I could - I'm glad I read it and would happily recommend to others, but I won't be rushing to re read it.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Emily on 29 Oct 2006
Format: Paperback
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. D. J. Brooks on 29 Dec 2009
Format: Paperback
It is hard not to be disappointed by The Accidental. The amount of praise on the cover and the first few pages raises expectations to heights only reached by NASA. The book doesn't meet these expectations. However, it is quite good.
`The Accidental' explores five characters - the four members of the Smart family, at their holiday home in Norwich. Each member of the family is experiencing some form of crisis - guilt, unfaithfulness, writer's block, etc. The fifth character, Amber, a mysterious stranger, arrives unexpectedly one night and stays all summer, becoming a part of the family, strangely affecting each Smart with her charismatic and strange behaviour.
Once the reader gets used to the shifting characters, and to Smith's playfulness (a stream of consciousness style dominates), there are things to like. Smith is often very funny, especially when writing Michael, the dryly sarcastic Literature Professor. Smith also has a good sense of observation and highlights everyday activities in an amusing way.
There are problems. Smith writes each character in segments, in a semi-first-person style which allows the author and characters voices to combine. This is biggest flaw here. Although well written, the characters aren't convincing or believable (or sometimes even likeable) as separate beings - they just seem to be Smith trying different voices. This is most obvious when Smith is writing teenage characters - it's like hearing your Mum singing Beyonce - good natured, but embarrassing, sometimes she even seems smug. These aren't real teenagers, they are what Smith thinks a teenager is, and sometimes become clichéd, a little too smart.
I'd recommend this book for the humour, but beware, it's a lot of pages to get through in the company of characters who you might not like.
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