The Accidental: Book summary and reviews of The Accidental by Ali Smith

The Accidental

By Ali Smith

The Accidental
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2006,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

Amber—thirtysomething and barefoot—shows up at the door of the Norfolk cottage that the Smarts are renting for the summer. She talks her way in. She tells nothing but lies. She stays for dinner.

Eve Smart, the author of a best-selling series of biographical reconstructions, thinks Amber is a student with whom her husband, Michael, is sleeping. Michael, an English professor, knows only that her car broke down. Daughter Astrid, age twelve, thinks she’s her mother’s friend. Son Magnus, age seventeen, thinks she’s an angel.

As Amber insinuates herself into the family, the questions of who she is and how she’s come to be there drop away. Instead, dazzled by her seeming exoticism, the Smarts begin to examine the accidents of their lives through the searing lens of Amber’s perceptions. When Eve finally banishes her from the cottage, Amber disappears from their sight, but not—they discover when they return home to London—from their profoundly altered lives.

Fearlessly intelligent and written with an irresistible blend of lyricism and whimsy, The Accidental is a tour de force of literary improvisation that explores the nature of truth, the role of chance, and the transformative power of storytelling.

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Book Awards

  • award image Costa Book Awards, 2005

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. So sure-handed are Smith's overlapping descriptions of the same events from different viewpoints that her simple, disquieting story lifts into brilliance." - Publishers Weekly.

"Smith's well-honed, even obsessive prose gives a feeling of eavesdropping on her characters' innermost thoughts." - The New Yorker.

"British novelist and Booker Prize nominee Smith (Hotel World, 2001) renders acrobatic prose that seems in a perpetual state of acceleration .... mesmerizing." - Booklist.

"An outstanding novel . . . Exuberantly inventive . . . Beautifully formed and astringently intelligent . . . It is as good as anyone who has been watching the progress of this talented author could possibly have hoped." - The Sunday Times.

"Funny, sexy, poignant, surprising, playful . . . Although the novel dazzles with the richness of language and ideas, it retains a delicious lightness." – The Observer.

"Spectacular . . . Allusive, ambitious and formally acrobatic . . . Original, restless, formally and morally challenging, [Ali Smith] remains a writer who resists definition." - The Times Literary Supplement.

"Amazing . . . Dazzling . . . Smith is one of our greatest imaginative writers." - The Scotsman “Joyous . . . Smith plays dizzying games with her story and language; she bends and buckles her prose, breathes fire into it, lets it cool, swirls it up in unimaginable shapes. This is writing as pure rapture, as giddy delight.” –The Times

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Author Information

Ali Smith Author Biography

Photo: Sarah Wood

Ali Smith was born in Inverness in 1962 and lives in Cambridge. Her first book, Free Love and Other Stories, won the Saltire First Book Award. Her other short story collections are Other Stories And Other Stories (1999), The Whole Story and Other Stories (2003) and The First Person and Other Stories. Her novels include: Like (1997); Hotel World (2001), which won the Encore Award, the East England Arts Award of the Year and the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award in 2002; The Accidental (2005), winner of the Whitbread Novel Award; and her latest There but for the which was published by Hamish Hamilton in 2011. Ali Smith also writes for the Guardian, the Scotsman and The Times Literary Supplement.

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