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There but for the | [Ali Smith]

There but for the

At a dinner party in the posh London suburb of Greenwich, Miles Garth suddenly leaves the table midway through the meal, locks himself in an upstairs room, and refuses to leave. Neighbors and friends slowly gathers around the house, and the story of Miles is one told from the points of view of four of them: a woman in her 40s called Anna, a man in his 60s called Mark, a woman in her 80s called May, and a 10-year-old child called Brooke. The thing is... none of these people knows Miles anything more than glancingly.
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Publisher's Summary

At a dinner party in the posh London suburb of Greenwich, Miles Garth suddenly leaves the table midway through the meal, locks himself in an upstairs room, and refuses to leave. An eclectic group of neighbors and friends slowly gathers around the house, and the story of Miles is one told from the points of view of four of them: a woman in her 40s called Anna, a man in his 60s called Mark, a woman in her 80s called May, and a 10-year-old child called Brooke. The thing is... none of these people knows Miles anything more than glancingly. So how much is it possible to know about a stranger? And what are the consequences of even the most casual, most fleeting meetings we have every day with other human beings?

Brilliantly audacious, disarmingly playful, full of Smith's trademark wit and puns, There but for the is a deft exploration of the human need for separation - from our pasts and from one another - and the redemptive possibilities for connections.

©2011 Original material by Ali Smith. Grateful acknowledgment is made to Nananda Music, B.V., c/o Tier Three Music (ASCAP) for permission to reprint an excerpt from "Ding-A-Dong" by Dick Baker, Will Luikinga, and Eddy Ouwens, copyright © Nada International C.V., administered by Nananda Music, B.V. International copyright secured. All rights reserved. (P)2011 (p) 2011 HighBridge Company

What the Critics Say

"So much more than the sum of its parts.... This fine, unusual novel is sweet and melancholy, indulgent of language and of the fragile oddballs who so relish in it." (Publishers Weekly)

“Quirky, intricately put together. . . . A book about loss and retention: about what we forget and what we remember, about the people who pass through our lives and what bits of them cling to our consciousness." (Charles McGrath, The New York Times)

“Ali Smith’s clever, by turns whimsical and subtly wrenching fifth novel, There But For The, is another book that sends you back to the beginning once you’ve reached the end, both to connect the dots of her intricately structured story and to marvel at what she has pulled off.” (Heller McAplin, NPR “Five 2011 Books That Stay With You”)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

2.6 (29 )
5 star
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2.7 (25 )
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2.7 (25 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Robert Surrey, BC, Canada 08-24-12
    Robert Surrey, BC, Canada 08-24-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    33
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    47
    45
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    13
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Insufferable as a bad house guest"

    This book is as insufferable as the house guest that ties the book together. I got this book based on its awards and strong critical reviews but found the book an annoying slog. Smith uses devices that I usually enjoy in writting (streams of consiousness, multiple narratives, no real heavy plotting) but creates a book that just caused me to give a thousand mile stare when listening too.
    Here are some of the problems I had with the book:
    1) Characters are poorly introduced and you need to spend a large chunk of time figuring out where the fit into the plot rather than enjoying the story; a few characters and plot lines I just gave up on; some books are worth the effort of really trying to understand it; this is not one of them.
    2) Streams of consiousness that go no where and speak like some trivia napkin or fortune cookie
    3) the book seems to be in love with its own cleverness like Smith just discovered certain ideas in metafiction and narrative and decided to take it out for a test drive with little consequence or interesting results

    This might be your cup of tea but I just found the book awful. The narrator also has a rather shrill tone of a school marm.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mirela San Diego, CA, United States 03-12-12
    Mirela San Diego, CA, United States 03-12-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    7
    1
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    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
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    Story
    "Not my cup of tea"
    What disappointed you about There but for the?

    I stuck through this book, but it just didn't speak to me... Strange punctuation style, seemingly irrelevant stories that have a somewhat interesting twist of circular story telling. However, I must not be the target reader type for this book, I didn't love it.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elinore 02-24-13
    Elinore 02-24-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    2
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Story
    "I don't know how I missed this author until now."
    Any additional comments?

    This book had everything I like--a good story and well-developed characters, but also an Interest in ideas, words and sentences. This is a book I would typically prefer to read than hear, but the audio worked for me very well, even with all the changes in perspective and voice.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Toby Portsmouth, NH, United States 10-14-14
    Toby Portsmouth, NH, United States 10-14-14 Member Since 2010

    Anglophile. Prefer only British fiction and mysteries. Good translations of Italian, too.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    99
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    71
    71
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    6
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    Story
    "Love from the beginning to the end"
    What did you love best about There but for the?

    The young girl, Brooke, was certainly one of the loves of this book. Overall, there was much to love about this novel. The diversity of the various characters made it like being in the heart of London.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of There but for the?

    I cannot name only one. I vastly enjoyed the conversations Brooke had with others and especially, her parents. Obviously, also Miles!


    What about Anne Flosnik’s performance did you like?

    Everything. Flosnik is one of my all-time favorite readers.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    I don't think in terms of film, so cannot answer this question.


    Any additional comments?

    I don't much like comparisons to film. No book can ever, really, be made into the perfect film, or so I believe. This was a tremendous read that flowed flawlessly from character to character and scene to scene. What a marvelous writer, Ms. Ali Smith.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    denise United States 10-10-13
    denise United States 10-10-13 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Awful"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    If you enjoy confusing plot lines by fast talkers


    Would you ever listen to anything by Ali Smith again?

    Not likely


    What didn’t you like about Anne Flosnik’s performance?

    Speech pattern too fast


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from There but for the?

    Nearly all


    Any additional comments?

    Very dissatisfied

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    B. Hudson U.S. 08-28-12
    B. Hudson U.S. 08-28-12 Member Since 2001
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Disappointed"
    What would have made There but for the better?

    A different narrator might have helped. The voice grated on my nerves.


    What was most disappointing about Ali Smith’s story?

    Disjointed and boring. Maybe reading it instead of listening would have given me an appreciation for it. I couldn't even make it through the last 2 hours.


    How could the performance have been better?

    Some inflection!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kayla BURLINGTON, MA, United States 04-03-12
    Kayla BURLINGTON, MA, United States 04-03-12 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "couldn't get through it"
    Would you ever listen to anything by Ali Smith again?

    probably not


    What didn’t you like about Anne Flosnik’s performance?

    her voice is extremely grating, and she says the dialogue tags in consistent drone


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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