The Accidental: Ali Smith

This is not a book review, even though I label it so. Why? Simply because I did not understand it. This is my humble attempt to gather my thoughts and post them here hoping that a kind soul will enlighten me as to what the point of this book was.

I struggled to get into the book. First few pages was an arduous task and I was tempted to put down the book and not pick it up again. I wanted to be fair to the book and the author (after all, it was shortlisted for Booker 2005), so I kept telling myself that the reading would be smooth later on. Sigh, that never happened.

Smith creates an interesting set of characters and in each chapter, she writes from a different character’s point of view. In one chapter, the narrator is focusing on Astrid, the little girl and Smith writes like a little girl. In another, the narrator is Michael, the womanizer English professor and one can notice the appropriate use of words in this chapter. Without knowing, the reader to hops from one character to another along with the author.

Chapters do not begin with sentences. You read that right. They begin mid-sentence as if the author is picking up a thought left behind. Chapters end mid-sentence. Why would one want to do that? One wonder if it was to get attention and gain an entry into the Booker shortlist.

It is hard for me to say what the book is about. I could gather this: it is about a woman who pays a surprise and unexpected visit to a family of four and touches their lives in her own way. That’s all I know. I don’t know what the author was trying to say with this book. I mean, what was the point of the book? Every book has a point, doesn’t it?

After reading this book, I have started to ask if I should ever pick a Booker shortlist again. As I say this, my eyes rest on Zadie Smith’s On Beauty lying on my bookshelf.

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2 Responses to “The Accidental: Ali Smith”

  1. valentina Says:

    I just “finished” this book and in a way I feel like you. Although I really enjoyed it at the beginning Ilost interest toward the end. I couldn’t read the last few pages because they made no sense to me whatsoever and was bored with them!

  2. Roz Says:

    I’ve just finished it and have to say I felt quite differently to you. I can understand why it might be hard to get into, but then so is Middlemarch, and actually much of that, like The Accidental, is perfectly readable. See my blog for a full review. I can also see your point about her grabbing attention to try and get into the Booker shortlist – but then, Smith is writing in a stream-of-consciousness tradition that extends way back beyond most literary prizes, and you don’t catch many people accusing James Joyce of being attention-seeking (although of course he is …).


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