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Beejay

The Accidental (moved from 21st Century Fiction)

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The Reading Group I belong to recently tackled The Accidental by Ali Smith after reading rave reviews from the international press.

It is the only book that came close to vying with Paul Theroux's Millroy the Magician for the title of Most Disliked Book.

 

We are a diverse group of women, eclectic in our choice of books.

Did we have our minds switched off and fail to grasp the signs of greatness so clear to the critics - including the Judges of the Whitbread Novel Prize 2005. Or was this a case of reviewer's hype and the Emperor's New Clothes?

 

Has any member of this BGO read either of them? Views from other readers would be welcome.

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This was actually a BGO monthly choice and no one liked it. I am beginning to think only Smith's friends reviewed this book. The thread might be resurrected under out Monthly Discussons - have a look. And welcome to BGO. :)

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The Reading Group I belong to recently tackled The Accidental by Ali Smith after reading rave reviews from the international press.

It is the only book that came close to vying with Paul Theroux's Millroy the Magician for the title of Most Disliked Book.

Heehee! Why do I take such pleasure in other people's dislike of this book? It can't say anything nice about me... I think it's because of the rave reviews and blanket coverage, so many people parted from their hard earned pennies only to have their high hopes dashed. (I recently read a different Theroux and that was dreadful too.)

 

The threads under the Book Group section of the forum might inspire you to vent your spleen Beejay. It's a bit haphazard in there at the moment, due to a recent system crash upsetting things, but have a dig around.

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Beejay,

Our reading of The Accidental as part of the BGO Book group resulted in three threads, which are currently mixed up with other bookgroup threads. Eventually, when we have finished sorting out the chaos resulting from our crash earlier this month they will be collected together in one sub-forum.

 

At present you can find them here

here

and here

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I kept my comments short because I was sure I had previously posted something more detailed about this under my former, pre-crash name. Thanks to megustaleer I found them and here they are:-

 

17th November 2006 06:23 PM

 

I have just come across this thread - with only a few pages to go before The Accidental will be the Book of the Month at the next meeting of our local Book Group. I have really struggled with it and almost abandoned it after only a few pages, but remembered it was my turn to lead the discussion.

Post-modern or a contemporary version of our old allegorical friend - the uninvited guest? Haven't we met Michael before - in Disgrace and elsewhere?

As for "innovative, creative writing" I thought stream of consciousness had been around for a very long time ! Sexy, erotic or pornographic - the edges certainly blur in this book.

Many allusions resonate with themes from films of the 1960's - cf. confusion between illusion/reality in Blow Up (Losey 1966); or:- young woman, not as innocent as she seems, enters, uninvited, the home of a University lecturer undergoing mid-life crisis -Accident (Losey 1967). Other example lurk in the text.

The book seems to be about people seeing/hearing or not seeing/hearing only what they choose ; it portrays a society distracted from the reality of the times they live in by random sex , the pursuit of success and "happiness". References to the grim realities of the world they/we live in, like war, the ill-treatment and murder of children may be an attempt to counter balance the prevailing denial and detachment of people from real life, from politics. But readers are free to draw their own conclusions. Although I have not quite finished the book I know I have not enjoyed reading it and am staggered by the hyperbole of the Critics. A case of Emperors New Clothes to my mind!

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I kept my comments short because I was sure I had previously posted something more detailed about this under my former, pre-crash name.

Who were you before you were Beejay??

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Rescued Discussion - sits here as well as anywhere else!

 

Hazel 22nd May 2006 09:39 AM

 

The Observer reviewed this book at the weekend, and said that "Ali Smith's entrancing novel thoroughly deserved its place on the most recent Booker shortlist, and will be admired - and devoured - by any reader sensible enough to pick it up."

 

Now, (deep breath) I think we can say that we are all sensible - yet I dont think any of us who actually read this enjoyed it. Are we missing something? I did not admire it at all and I certainly didn't devour it. Plodded through.

 

Mungus 22nd May 2006 09:42 AM

Originally Posted by Hazel

The Observer reviewed this book at the weekend, and said that "Ali Smith's entrancing novel thoroughly deserved its place on the most recent Booker shortlist, and will be admired - and devoured - by any reader sensible enough to pick it up."

 

:D I saw this and was going to post it up for a laugh too! She must have friends in high places is all I can think. Her previous novel Hotel World received similar adulation and I couldn't get past the first few pages.

Hazel 22nd May 2006 09:44 AM

 

I think someone once praised this author then all the other critics don't want to be seen as 'less bookish' so they all follow suit without actually agreeing. No one wants to be the first to stand up and say "rubbish" lest they be cast asunder from the London literati parties.

 

Momo 22nd May 2006 10:45 AM

 

Originally Posted by Hazel

I think someone once praised this author then all the other critics don't want to be seen as 'less bookish' so they all follow suit without actually agreeing. No one wants to be the first to stand up and say "rubbish" lest they be cast asunder from the London literati parties.

I get that feeling very often. The first one probably didn't want to admit that he/she didn't understand the novel and therefore praised it and then it went on and on like that ... :D

 

katrina 22nd May 2006 07:39 PM

 

If one or two of us didn't like it then fine, but we can't all be missing the point surely! The book was badly written, and the plot seemed pretty pointless - nothing really happened, the characters were unbelieveable and unlikeable. Maybe we she send all of our postings on this book to one of these critics just to show we certainly didn't 'devour' it

 

Momo 22nd May 2006 10:54 PM

Originally Posted by katrina

If one or two of us didn't like it then fine, but we can't all be missing the point surely!

 

You're right, but contrary to those critics we don't earn our money with it and we can admit if we didn't understand a book or didn't get a great meaning out of it. ;)

 

Originally Posted by katrina

Maybe we she send all of our postings on this book to one of these critics just to show we certainly didn't 'devour' it

 

That would be a good idea. But would they listen?

 

Hazel 23rd May 2006 08:41 AM

 

Originally Posted by Momo

You're right, but contrary to those critics we don't earn our money with it and we can admit if we didn't understand a book or didn't get a great meaning out of it.

 

I don't think that anyone of us failed to understand or make meaning from the book - here was nothing to understand. Unless you count a person entering a dysfunctional family, making no difference, and leaving again.

 

Momo 23rd May 2006 10:27 PM

 

Originally Posted by Hazel

I don't think that anyone of us failed to understand or make meaning from the book - here was nothing to understand. Unless you count a person entering a dysfunctional family, making no difference, and leaving again.

 

You're right, I should have said it differently. Those critics think they always have to understand a book and explain it. And if they can't, they will just say it's a great book and praise it. Whereas we don't do that. If a book is stupid, we'll say it, even if someone else thinks we just didn't get it.

 

Flingo 27th May 2006 11:21 PM

 

Originally Posted by Momo

critics think they always have to understand a book and explain it. And if they can't, they will just say it's a great book and praise it.

 

Throughout my reading I kept thinking - "this book is critically acclaimed, thats why I don't understand it"!!! It's like any Oscar winning film! And every Man Booker winner I have read! Not sure why this didn't win - it had all the characteristics - I dread to think what the winner is like, I won't be touching that with a barge pole!

 

katrina 28th May 2006 12:28 PM

 

In the Penguin Reading group recommendations I found this quote about The Accidental from a reading group "This would appeal to anyone who enjoys good language, great characters amd a clever style"

 

I'm starting to think I read a completely different book!

Hazel 28th May 2006 04:10 PM

Originally Posted by katrina

In the Penguin Reading group recommendations I found this quote about The Accidental from a reading group "This would appeal to anyone who enjoys good language, great characters amd a clever style"

 

I'm starting to think I read a completely different book!

 

I am starting to think us BGOers live in a parallel universe where good sense rules...

 

megustaleer 28th May 2006 06:03 PM

Originally Posted by katrina

In the Penguin Reading group recommendations I found this quote about The Accidental from a reading group "This would appeal to anyone who enjoys good language, great characters and a clever style"

 

I notice that it says nothing about appealing to someone who enjoys 'a good story'!

 

"Good language'? Well, I've sold my copy, so can't take a second look, but inasmuch as the personalities of the characters are clearly portrayed through their use of language, I guess that's right.

 

'Great characters'? Hmm, what does that mean? 'Great' in the sense of being interesting? Charismatic? People you'd want to spend time with? I think not!

'Great' in the sense of unforgettable literary individuals , well. no I don't think so, but only time will tell.

 

'Clever style', Oh yes, but more a kind of 'clever-clever' style that shouts 'Look at me, see how cleverly I am presenting this pointless story"

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I must check out the other threads on this, but i have to say I absolutely adored the Accidental. I just finished it last week. Struggled with Astrid's voice in chapter one, but it all fell into place once i worked out what was going on. Magnus' second chapter almost had me in tears, and it kept getting better and better. So many delightful touches with language, quirky insights into life, and novel writing with absolutely no rules - it was liberating to read. i was expecting a major twist, and even after it ended, i was left with a tiny doubt about Amber's actual existence. Ill have to read it again, but basically due to the references to Alhambra, and Granada earlier in the novel. Was it Eve who mentioned travelling to Granada, as it was Amber who mentioned it at the end. Then there was the last sentence... everything about it moved me. Particularly loved Amber's sections where she lists the iconic dramas from cinema throughout her life, and also the section on the cinema histories, relating to her conception. It was thrilling! I really cant agree with the assertion that it was badly written. I loved the way she wrote, and it was as if she was speaking to your subconscience in a way. Certainly quite esoteric, and if you like things linear and spelled out, you probably wont like this book. I prefer it if there is doubt to interpretation.

 

My sister gave me this book as she knows i like 'weird' novels...she didnt like it, it has to be said!

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Welcome to BGO, soundsofibis.

You are a bit of a lone voice crying in the wilderness as far as this thread goes, but now you have stuck your head above the parapet (to mix my metaphors) other dissenting souls may find the courage to join you.

 

I look forward to reading your comments on other books discussed here.

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Welcome, soundsofibis,

this is the great thing about an online bookgroup. You will always find someone who liked a book everyone else seems to dislike. Sometimes that changes your mind and gets you closer to the book. However, I don't think you'll have much luck with those of us who read it at the time. Meg might be right, though. I'm sure there are a few more who liked it.

Anyway, hope to see more of you. Have fun!

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Thanks for the welcome megustaleer & momo! I felt the need to defend it, but thats the beauty you are correct, that we can all have different views which can maybe have a small influence on others reading the posts!

 

Off topic: Incidentally, she has recently collaborated on the 'Ballads of the Book' album - a project where Scottish writers wrote poetry and Scottish bands wrote music and composed original music to go with it. Ali Smith did a track with the Trashcan Sinatra's, a band from my home town, a couple of the members im good friends with, so im very very excited to get this album - im going to buy it tomorrow.. As well as this it features so many other brilliant Scottish poets and musicians, if your Scottish you should defo check it out, if not - im sure its worth a go, especially if you like folk music.

 

Peace IB~)

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Thanks, soundsofibis, I do like folk music and looked into the CD. Already the cover looks very interesting, just like the kind of music you expect to hear on that sort of record.

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i know this is an old thread but i feel i have to reply & tell you that youre not alone soundsofibis :-) i really enjoyed the accidental - one reason is the way you see each of the characters from each others point of view. i think it works really well. and she has a really idiosyncratic writing style. i can't decide whether i love her kooky, real characters or her writing style more. ok, i admit it. im a big fan :-) maybe some of you people could give her first novel 'like', or 'other stories and other stories' a go?! :)

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I've just finished The Accidental and my first reaction has been to log on here 'for help' - I couldn't make any sense of it either; I didn't like the characters, was waiting for a plot to emerge (which never happened) and simply couldn't see the point. But, as has already been commented upon, many times, it seems to have had rave reviews. Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far; it's re-assuring to see I'm not the only one totally bewildered.

 

However, it's good to see there are some people who enjoyed it too. I normally like books that are a bit off the wall - but this one was some distance from the wall!

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I have found readers on other book discussion forums who enjoyed The Accidental.

I don't know what that says about the majority of those BGO members who have posted opinions on it so far.

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I loved the Accidental too - and although I have met Ali Smith (she is lovely) I am not a friend. I did have the advantage, though, of hearing Smith read the first chapter (Astrid's voice) aloud, so that gave me a real feel for the tempo and tone. I suspect I might have been put off without this head start.

 

It's ages since I read the book, so much of the detail has faded, but I thought the concept of Astrid identifying a need in each of the family - and then filling it - worked very well. By addressing needs - and then by obtaining or creating secrets, she was able to wrap them all around her little finger. The clever bit, though, was in having the four voices - four slightly unreliable narrators - to bring this into relief.

You watched as Astrid, the angel from Heaven - started to look a bit dodgy - and then to become the Hound from Hell.

There were also some moments of great comic relief - the plucking razor blades from the rack in the supermarket springs to mind.

 

The four narrators, whilst being the great creation of the novel, was also it's Achilles heel. In the final rotation of voices, the cat had to be let out of the bag during the first voice. The moment of revelation then had to be repeated three times, which did start to become tiresome. And the final chapter - the mother - stretched credulity just a bit too far right at the end.

 

But all in all, I thought it was a lively, funny and inventive read that marks Ali Smith as one of our leading writers, fir to walk on the world stage.

 

*****

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I thought I'd reveiwed this book elsewhere after reading it last year, but apparently not. (If so, I can't find it!) I have to add my vote to the positive readings of The Accidental - I thought that telling and retelling sections of the narrative through four different perspectives was risky and effective, and that Ali Smith was able to conjure a new and distinctive voice for every character very well. I particularly enjoyed the way the character of Astrid (who is the guest, the blow in, the accidental) is viewed and reviewed by each of the family members.

 

One description I recall particularly vividly is through the eyes of the lecherous father, Michael, who sees in Astrid similarities to the dishevilled flower-strewn girl in Botticelli's Spring. Perhaps because those paintings are so well-known, that description seems to evoke not only Astrid's appearance, but also Michael's opinion of her - and also hints that there might be some artifice involved in her nature. The way you can read the description in multiple ways (for what it says, for what it reveals, for what it suggests) is typical of Smith's lucid prose style and I found the whole book really quite brilliant.

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It's ages since I read the book, so much of the detail has faded, but I thought the concept of Astrid identifying a need in each of the family - and then filling it - worked very well...The clever bit, though, was in having the four voices - four slightly unreliable narrators - to bring this into relief.
I thought that telling and retelling sections of the narrative through four different perspectives was risky and effective, and that Ali Smith was able to conjure a new and distinctive voice for every character very well...The way you can read the description in multiple ways (for what it says, for what it reveals, for what it suggests) is typical of Smith's lucid prose style and I found the whole book really quite brilliant.
I too am a fan of this book. I agree that the use of language is what makes this a great book rather than the story although I was invovled in then story and with all of the characters. I didn't have a problem with the final section with the mother either, in fact I quite liked that!

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I have just finished this book. I see from previous posts that there are mixed views and I almost gave up after two chapters. I am glad I persevered though. While it won't ever be one of my "desert island" reads, it did deliver more than I initially thought.

 

It took me a while to get to grips with the four perspectives (all flawed!) and I agree with someone else in this thread that I'm not entirely sure whether Amber existed in reality, but I did enjoy the way the story played out and felt that the four characters got what was coming to them (not necessarily in a nasty way).

 

Zebra

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    • By MisterHobgoblin
      Once upon a time, Ali Smith and I were besties. I loved her books, she loved my reviews of them and we smiled at each other at book festivals. Those were the days.
       
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    • By Flingo
      Rescued Thread

      katrina 9th May 2006 09:47 PM

      Characters incl spoilers

      Which characters did you like/dislike?

      I really liked the son Magnus, especially as early on he was the first charcter that willed me on to keep reading. Didn't approve of the sex in the church though (and I'm not particuarly religious).

      As a family they were so lost and so naive, I wanted to bash their heads together so many times.
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      Why were the kids so neglected when they were obviously calling out for help and attention?
      AND WHY DID THEY LET A STRANGER IN TO THEIR FAMILY WITH NO QUESTIONS ASKED?
      Oh and how could Eve accept her son was sleeping with a much older lady and not raise an eyelid?

      I felt they deserved what they got in the end, didn't understand why Eve left her kids with an obviously uninterested step father when all their lives were in turmoil either.

      (See I was left with lots of questions! left me feeling = ) and withquite a headache. I suppose books are their to provoke reaction

      Mungus 10th May 2006 10:42 PM


      This to me was the central flaw in the whole story. We've all been brought up in families and how many of our families would have let some woman move in and take over in this way. Just rubbish!

      As I've said previously, I read this book a while back and felt absolutely no need to pick it up again to join in with these dicussions (I'm sure you can all understand why) so I can't offer much in the way of insight. All so forgettable.

      Quite why this novel has been so acclaimed is beyond me, but Ali Smith's first novel Hotel World was equally well received and IMO totally impossible to read.

      Momo 10th May 2006 11:13 PM

      The question is not really why they let a stranger into the house but how could a stranger end up getting there and they didn't think she was a stranger. Everybody thought one of the others knew her. Did they really trust each other that little.
      We live far away from our family and moved so much over the years that we have friends all over the world. Which means we often have guests over to stay, sometimes for a day, sometimes for a couple of weeks. We have had an exchange student stay for six months, all these kind of things people do. We have even heard the question whether we run a bed & breakfast (sometimes it feels that way). We have even accepted friends of our friends into our house when they were in the area. But never - ever - have we not been aware of where that person (or those persons) came from and how we knew them.
      So, the reason the stranger could get into the house like that was that there was really no communication or trust in that so-called family. I didn't see one. That's my opinion.

      donnae 10th May 2006 11:42 PM

      Why did Michael have to be the same old stereotypical University lecturer that is always having affairs with his students??? I was glad he got caught out in the end. He didn't really seem to have an awful lot going for him. I don't suppose Eve is the only woman in a relationship like this though and accepting it. She obviously saw him as an improvement on the "shop boy" Adam.

      I didn't pick up that Eve knew Magnus was sleeping with Amber. I thought it only happened in the loft and the church (strange?!?!) and that no-one else in the family knew it was happening.

      I think Astrid and Magnus were the most likeable characters, perhaps because they are younger and open to change, but then also more malleable by Amber.

      Amber is a very strange character. She is obviously a catalyst of some sort, (I am glad she saved Magnus) but I expected there to be a more of a link between her and the family. This would at least have made it a bit more understandable as to why she was allowed in! Was her story true about killing the child - or is that another story from a film? Why did she steal the contents of their house (if it was her)?? Did she see it as giving the family a clean slate to start with or did she want some new door knobs??

      When Eve is in America, and the process seems to be being repeated, it felt as if Smith was trying to justify that if a second family could take a "stranger" in, that the situation with Amber wouldn't be so unbelievable.

      I wanted to know more about Eve's parents. I felt there should have more information about them or not included them. The ending felt rushed.

      Momo 11th May 2006 02:09 PM

      What ending?

      Hazel 11th May 2006

      I think the family latched onto Amber because they were so repelled by themselves, and she was different, not a family member, and therefore easier to embrace and latch on to. I disliked everyone in this book apart from Magnus. He seemed like the only real person -the rest were characterless, stereotypical, plot devices with which the 'magic up' a story. The only feeling I have now about this book, is guilt as I sold some poor sucker it on Greenmetropolis - hope it wasn't anyone on BGO - and they enjoy it more than I did.

      katrina 11th May 2006 05:05 PM
       

      They knew something was going on:

      "When they got home, she walked straight in on Amber in the lounge with what looked like one hand on Magnus's crotch. Magnus stood up.
      It's all right, Amber said. He's legally of age. "

      So I guess they could figure out the rest, this happens just before Eve throws Amber out, so it may actually have been a factor, although I seemed to get the feeling that Eve threw her out because she realised she was loosing her family

      Momo 12th May 2006 01:47 PM

      I don't think Eve threw out Amber because she knew about Marcus. I don't think she knew at all why Amber was there and what else she did. That might have been her reason, realizing she was taken advantage of. Though I am not sure about that either. I'm not sure about a lot in the book, and that's not because it is all written a little too cleverly, more because it isn't written at all.

      Flingo 27th May 2006 11:14 PM

      I don't think I particularly liked any of the characters, although I can almost understand the attraction of Michael to his students.

      Meg said elsewhere that she felt uncomfortable in the characters minds, and I think thats how I felt. None of the characters felt quite plausible enough to be real and, therefore for me, were unlikeable.
       
    • By Flingo
      Rescued Thread For an Accidental Forum!

      katrina 9th May 2006 09:24 PM

      Hey guys, I know most people haven't really enjoyed this book but I still wanted to discuss some aspects of it before this book closes, which is looking likely to be very soon.

      I personally found this book far to contemporary and too rooted in this last couple of years. I don't understand how any editor/publisher expects this book to work as a work of literature or in a decades time.

      For example, the reference to Richard and Judy's book club (p 80), (Eve wants one of here books to be featured as a book group read) I found screamingly self-referential, its as if Smith is calling out 'PICK ME!!!!! I mentioned you!! just came across as unnecessary and awful. Actually had me underlining the notes I felt compelled to write on this.

      I also thought the mention of the recent murders of children (such as Molly and Damalola Taylor (sp?) was just awful, I presume their families would have been warned or asked permission that these references were featured, but to me it just seemed sickening, their names don't need to appear in fiction just to be glossed over. I can understand mentions of war as this is something that crosses time and countries, there's no need to bring individuals into this novel.



      Adrian 9th May 2006 09:41 PM


      The discussions never "close" for a particular book, and even when we eventually move on to another book, you can still post new threads or continue old ones on this or any other previous book.

      I'm guessing this is in response to me starting nominations for the next read. I only did so as there wasn't much discussion on The Accidental (even the nominator hasn't posted about it), so thanks for kick-starting the discussion!

      I haven't read The Accidental, so I can't comment on your actual post.



      Momo 9th May 2006 10:32 PM

      As I already mentioned under "First Impressions", at one point I thought, am I reading a novel or is this a movie theatre flyer. She was just quoting the plot of different movies. I didn't recognize all of them but just a few made me realize that the whole chapter seemed to be one movie after another. Couldn't believe it. What if I hadn't known any of the movies. Would I have understood what she was talking about? Well, I didn't really understand what she meant a lot of times but this one was really weird. The same with some other book plots. Is this how you write contemporary fiction, just list the plots of popular books and movies and then you have an interesting story? Obviously not.


      katrina 10th May 2006 05:17 PM

      Hey I also missed out on a lot of those film mentions, were obviously before my time, made it really annoying, and like she was showing off about all the things she could reel off in one chapter - or maybe she just needed to fill a few more pages! Definately not a book that I'll be keeping on my shelf for future reads.



      Momo 10th May 2006 11:15 PM
       

      I don't think they were before your time, the ones I did know were contemporary (like Love Actually, the only one I remember right now without checking back, because she was going on about that one for quite a while).



      judemarg 13th May 2006 11:00 AM

      I don't think this book is 'too contemporary', it simply is contemporary and to my mind very post-modern with its play with the printed word, for example the chapter heading 'The Middle'. All the sub-chapter following begin with The Middle.

      I think the part where the film plots are listed was Amber's thinking. (I think we're meant to be inside the characters minds when they're speaking aren't we?) And the point is that she was conceived in a cinema and its something that her mother (who seems to be as crackers as Amber) probably made her aware of.

      I dislike all the characters. I'm only up to page 178-just over half way- but have found nothing to make me feel good. Are there really men like Michael around? For an English professor or whatever he's meant to be his poetry is pretty rubbish. They have no idea of the value of money - who in their right minds buys a 12 year old a £2,000 camera? And Magnus needs a reality check.

      The Observer review which is printed on the front of my copy calls it sexy. Well while it is full of sex none of the sex is very sexy most of it comes across as quite sordid.

      I will finish it because I'm curious if Ali Smith will do the right thing and give her characters the come-uppance they deserve. It's not getting completely on my nerves either.

      Judith
       
    • By Flingo
      Rescued Thread

      megustaleer 25th April 2006 08:40 PM

      In the first 75+ pages the reader experiences being in the head of a pre-pubescent girl, a tormented adolescent boy, and a predatory middle aged man. I found none of these habitats comfortable.

      This book seems to me to have been written with an eye on all the literary awards going, as the reader has to do all the work to make a comprehensible story out of the disjointed clips (to borrow the camera metaphor) of narrative.

      Hazel 26th April 2006 08:53 AM



      I completely agree Meg. I am finding it hard to get into and not exactly picking it up each evening with a light heart. If it wasn't for BGO I would probably given up at my standard 100 pages mark. Hoping things will change.

      Mungus 26th April 2006 04:05 PM

      I read the book in December last year and my overall memory of it is that it was hard work and tried very hard to be meaningful. I liked the voice of the daughter though and ultimately found her to be the most sympathetic of the characters.

      Hazel 30th April 2006 10:40 AM

      I finished it last night and am looking forward to discussing it. But, I have to confess I didn't really enjoy it. There were brief flashes of good writing and engaging plot lines, but they were drowned in moments of 'trying to be clever' written diarrohea.




      Momo 30th April 2006 11:12 AM

      I have only just started reading "The Accidental" by Ali Smith (still in the middle of the fantastic novel "The Falls" by Joyce Carol Oates - but I want to join in the discussions here, so I read them both at the same time). I find it quite difficult to get into, so far, there seems to be no connection between the characters, no flow in the story. I have to go back often to see what I missed before only to find out that I didn't miss it, there just seems to be no connection. Well, we'll see how it goes.

      Starry 1st May 2006 08:28 AM

      I've just finished this book and like everyone here I can't say I enjoyed it. I really don't like the stream of consciousness style, there are no speech marks which really gets up my nose and I disliked all of the characters, though perhaps Eve was the one I disliked least

      I must admit this is not the sort of book I would have normally picked up, I only read it because I had pledged to myself that I would read this month's pick.




      Hazel 1st May 2006 10:27 AM

      Usually I do like it especially when it is done really well and integral to the novel, but this just seemed like it for it's own sake and really didn't add anything to my appreciation of the characters. I will give Smith one point though - it made it a little fun to get into Magnus' head - but not for long.

      katrina 2nd May 2006 06:22 PM

      I'm not really getting very far with this book at the moment, its definately lacking inspiration, and leaving it at home by mistake when I was away for the weekend really diidn't help things. I will try to pick it up and get started on it again today and hopefully have it done by the weekend

      donnae 4th May 2006 02:18 PM

      I am about 70ish pages into this...have taken an instant dislike to Michael - what an unpleasant man.

      I am quite enjoying this, I want to understand more about everyone, especially Eve because so far I have read very little about her.

      Like you Momo, I have had to re-read a couple of times just to make sure I haven't turned two pages over instead of one.

      Momo 4th May 2006 07:23 PM

      You're doing much better than me there. At page 70, I didn't even get who was who.

      katrina 5th May 2006 10:10 PM

      I've finished it!!! Gosh that was a mighty strange book there were points which I actually hated, and parts which I thought were alright, never got overly excited though. I really hated the way the type hadn't been aligned so the writing looked all rough.

      Came out of it wondering what the point was really, and there was far to many contemporary references for me, none of these would make sense in another country or in ten years time.

      Momo 6th May 2006 12:58 PM
       

      Right. At one point I thought, am I reading a novel or is this a movie theatre flyer.

      katrina 6th May 2006 01:39 PM

      I agree there where some definate chapters that i issues with, I even got out a pad and made notes with lots of underlining about things I was angry with in this book, in some places she seemed to try far too hard.

      Flingo 23rd May 2006 10:32 PM

      I've fallen asleep twice today trying to read it!

      Got to page 36, so looking forward to the next time I have insomnia!

      I agree about the writing style - even just reading the bits so far "by" the 12 year old girl - I want to strangle her for the use of i.e. in completely inappropriate places.
       

      Momo 23rd May 2006 10:54 PM

      I think that was mainly stating that some people, especially teenagers, love to use a certain word (or abbreviation in this case) and apply it everywhere, even when it doesn't apply.
      Not that I have any inclination in thinking that's so great that it makes the book more readable.
       
    • By MisterHobgoblin
      Public Library is sold as a collection of stories. To this reader, at least, it felt more like a collection of essays. That is, there seemed to be little fictional drive. The broad format seems to be:
       
      I was doing A.
      I found B.
      This reminded me of C.
      I continued doing A.

      The essays all seem to have some kind of booky or literary angle that sometimes feels rather contrived. And in between each story/essay, there is a passage in italics, usually quoting famous people offering a personal reflection on their erstwhile use of public libraries. This often, but not always, involves the formative experience of progressing from the children’s library to the adult one. It’s fair enough, I remember the experience myself, but it’s not necessarily something I want to pay money to read.

      As for the essays themselves, there is little warmth to them. The voice is flat and the first person narrator is generally (a possibly fictional representation of) Ali Smith. So, for example, we have Ali Smith keeping shop in her father’s independent electrical store in Inverness; or we have Ali Smith querying a credit card bill, or Ali Smith on a train. The playfulness of her earlier novels; the wit of her earlier stories is missing. Reading the collection is a pretty joyless experience – which is a shame when its purpose seems to be to celebrate the concept of the public library.

      At the end, there’s little that was memorable. If I am honest, it’s really only the preamble where Ali Smith and a companion walk past a club in London called Library and go in asking for books. It’s a bit of a cheap gag – and it would have been obvious from the pavement that the building was a club and not a real library – but it did create a single image of humour from the contrived misunderstanding.

      My top tip would be to go back into Ali Smith’s back catalogue, but leave this collection on the library shelf. For me, at least, it was a project that didn’t work.
       
      **000
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