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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Even better second time
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...
Published on 31 Jan 2007 by Ms. I. Field-reid

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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Genius or just trying too hard?
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...
Published on 14 May 2006 by Beca


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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Even better second time, 31 Jan 2007
By 
Ms. I. Field-reid "Ms Reid" (Brighton UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Accidental (Paperback)
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and misunderstood, 29 Oct 2006
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This review is from: The Accidental (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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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Genius or just trying too hard?, 14 May 2006
This review is from: The Accidental (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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accidentally stumbling across entertainment, 25 Sep 2011
By 
John Cutts (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Accidental (Paperback)
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.

What Amber seems to be doing , and I am only two thirds through, is to be allowing a part of each member of the family to be expressed, which so far has been either disallowed or conventionally suppressed in the unspoken rules of everyday family life.

This is a kind of an Utopian idyll, which most of us would willingly snap up - here I go identifying with Marcus again, and the author has selected a representative family to be her big brother house, where we the watcher can gleefully witness the inner enlargement of her "guinea pigs"; instead of having to observe the behaviours of a group of people who were it not for Ambers interventions, would soon I believe have us saying to each of the cast "Get over yourself".

Maybe there is an implicit message here to hold ourselves more lightly indeed.

And in the getting over ourselves, maybe Ali Smith has done considerably more for us than simply providing us with us a couple of hours of edutainment.

A book that I am already looking forward to reading again
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not For Those Seeking Escapism, 14 Dec 2010
This review is from: The Accidental (Paperback)
Before I began reading The Accidental I was excited to begin reading my first ever book that had won a Whitbread novel award, so I was expecting great things.

However I felt slightly lost and confused in the many enigmas represented in the novel. One of them being the identity of the opening narrator, they were never identified clearly and it left me confused at how they had relevance to the story. This unanswered puzzle I expected to be answered at some point during my time reading the book was never answered and left me wondering how this person was of any relevance to the story. I spent most of my reading time trying to find clues as to who this person was.

However, something I did enjoy is how Smith portrayed her four members of the Smart family through the use of first person for each characters own narration of events. This was something I enjoyed as it allowed me to gather a clear understanding of each character's thought processes and how their individuality leads them to clash as a family. The Smart family consists of a preteen girl, Astrid, obsessed with capturing everything she sees on film, teenage Magnus, a boy harbouring a massive guilt, stepfather, Michael, an unfaithful English professor, and the mother Eve, an author experiencing writers block.

Through each of the Smart family's point of view we see how they meet Amber, a charismatic freeloader, and how she is perceived by each member of the family. First person allows instant insight into how Amber and her charming ways of freeloading have an effect on each member of the family to bring them closer together yet also tears them apart as a family unit more than they were before they had even met her.

One of the things to strike me about this story is that each member of the Smart Family is as equally dislikeable as the last. Not one of them has any redeeming qualities that may allow them to be forgiven for their negative and spiteful thoughts towards each other. The anonymous Amber included due to the ambiguity about who she is which left me constantly suspicions of her and unable to warm to her.

I personally found this book not to my taste. I realise that the books whole storyline was purposely left unanswered to represent that life isn't resolved all the time. However, for my part, I read books as a form of escapism therefore I want the resolved answers that don't happen in everyday life, and I want the happy endings. I would say that this book if definitely for those who enjoy socio-realist genres as the book portrays real life and gets under this skin of the characters to represent that life isn't perfect. However for fellow readers out there like me, I wouldn't suggest this book if you are looking for an easy book to read or if you are looking to read a book for escapism purposes.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amber light, 9 Mar 2007
By 
Ripple (uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Accidental (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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating, 24 Oct 2006
By 
Patrick N. Grant "grantp4" (Preston, Lancs) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Accidental (Paperback)
I started this book with great anticipation but went from hating the style and flow of the book to being quite intrigued by it. I've just finished it and the fact that I have bothered to write this review must mean it stirred something in me but I'm not quite sure what. Yes it was different, no I didn't like the style, yes I'm glad i read it. Maybe Ali Smith was trying to be too clever or maybe i just missed the point.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting and thought-provoking, 23 Aug 2006
By 
tabitha (South West Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Accidental (Paperback)
This is the only time I have read a new novel, then immediately turned back to the first page and read it again, to pick up the clues and nuances missed first time, and to review the beginning of the story in the light of the outcome. It's compelling and easy to read, and the author's love affair with language is just as fresh and engaging the second time round.

As in a Greek tragedy, much of the action takes place offstage, and we encounter the four members of the Smart family each reeling and struggling to cope, in isolation, with their own personal disaster. The deus ex machina is Amber/Alhambra who interacts with each in the way he or she needs to come to a new understanding of him/herself.

Ali Smith's prose is compressed and innovative, echoing the rhythms of natural speech in a stream of consciousness that is neither pretentious nor inaccessible.

Her love of language, culture and people, and her fascination with the unregarded surface of everyday life, shine from every page.

A delight to read and a worthy winner.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stimulating and perfectly accessible, 22 Nov 2005
By 
Ms A. Scott "Alexis Scott" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Accidental (Hardcover)
All reading requires some effort. Ali Smith's most recent work is more accessible than 'Hotel World' and more ambitious than 'Like'. It is fun as well as intellectually stimulating. I also found it perfectly accessible as well as quite fast-paced. It probably deserved the Booker. The characters are well fleshed-out and the book is also quite different from anything else I have ever read. Ali Smith's style is truly inimitable. The detractors should re-read her.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A whole lot of nothing, 18 Jan 2008
This review is from: The Accidental (Paperback)
I bought this book purely because the cover listed a bunch of awards that it had either won or had been nominated for. Unfortunately it started badly and just didn't get any better. Full of unlikebale characters which were difficult to identify with and a story which is, on the whole, a bit on the boring side. Maybe I'm too stupid to see the genuis behind the narrative/plot/structure or whatever but to be honest I don't care, I thought it was pointless and I didn't enjoy it.
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The Accidental
The Accidental by Ali Smith (Hardcover - 10 Jan 2006)
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