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Publisher's Summary

Barefoot, thirtysomething Amber shows up at the door of a Norfolk cottage that the Smarts are renting for the summer. Amber doesn't know them, but she talks her way in, telling lies, and stays for dinner. Eve, an author, thinks Amber is a student her husband is sleeping with. Michael, an English professor, knows only that her car broke down. Daughter Astrid, age 12, thinks she's her mother's friend. Son Magnus, 17, thinks she's an angel.

Gradually, Amber insinuates herself into the family. Dazzled by her seeming exoticism, the Smarts begin to examine the accidents of their lives under the searing lens of Amber's perceptions. When Eve finally banishes her from the cottage, Amber disappears from their sight, but not, as they find when they return home to London, from their profoundly altered lives.

Fearlessly intelligent, disarmingly playful, The Accidental is a Joycean tour-de-force of literary improvisation that explores the nature of truth, the role of chance, and the transformative power of storytelling.

©2005 Ali Smith; (P)2005 HighBridge Company

Critic Reviews

  • 2005 Man Booker Finalist, Fiction

"Spectacular....Allusive, ambitious and formally acrobatic....Original, restless, formally and morally challenging." (The Times Literary Supplement)
"An outstanding novel....Exuberantly inventive....Beautifully formed and astringently intelligent." (The Sunday Times [London])
"Her simple, disquieting story lifts into brilliance." (Publishers Weekly)
"Acrobatic prose that seem in a perpetual state of acceleration....Mesmerizing." (Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 2.8 out of 5.0
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Performance

  • 3.6 out of 5.0
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    10
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    22
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    7
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Story

  • 3.2 out of 5.0
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Sort by:
  • Overall
  • Isabelle
  • Middlesex, VT, United States
  • 09-07-06

I do not recommend

I do not recommend the audiobook "The Accidental." I did not think it was engaging. It is written in a stream of consciousness style that I found boring. It might be a realistic portrayal of the random thoughts that people have, but I often found these thoughts uninteresting. I bought this book because I liked the plot summary and the critical reviews. After I was a couple of hours into it, I went back to re-read the reviews, and this time I clicked on the customer reviews and I saw that other listeners had reactions similar to mine.

However, professional reviewers praised it highly, which leads me to believe that I might be missing something, which is entirely possible. Maybe the characters' thoughts are not really random, but cleverly presented and tied together nicely. I stuck with it to the end to see if it would have a "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" style of ending, that almost makes it worthwhile, but it did not.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • L
  • New York NY, United States
  • 03-20-06

Excellent writing, thought provoking

This book was excellently written and narrated. I was amazed at the author's ability to write in the first person for 5 different characters, a mix of male and female, and have each character be distinct in "voice" and vocabulary. All characters were believable and well-wrought. Do not buy this book if you like to skim the surface or are uncomfortable with the unconscious energies that are there under the surface in all of us. If you want something sentimental or feel good on a superficial level, skip this. But if you want a book with great character development, a book that is thought-provoking and builds suspense through engagement with the characters inner lives, you will enjoy this book. Thank you audible for putting on something that is contemporary, unabridged and has got some substance!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

wow

I was initially concerned I had made a poor choice. By the end, I was disappointed it wasn't longer. I would almost compare this to Cloud Atlas, with out the fantasy. Great characters. This is the type of book that should be broken down and analyzed in a literature class. Well done.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A Worthwhile Challenge

This is not an easy book, but it is a beautifully crafted novel, well worth the challenge of following a story line that is seldom chronological. Ali Smith does a terrific job of creating a unique "voice" for each of the five characters, and whole chapters are dedicated to their individual points of view. A motif of that which is real juxtaposed to that which is manipulated to appear real runs throughout the novel. The narration is excellent, and I highly recommend this Booker Prize-nominated novel.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • PC
  • 08-17-06

eh?

I tried - I really did. But 2 1/2 hrs into it I give up. Is there a purpose to this thing? Perhaps abstract random prose is not entirely suitable to listening, and it might be ok to read it in print. I don't know. I'm going to go find something with a plot.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Add to the positives

Wow - I was surprised to see how many people hated this audiobook - I thought it was great. My only complaint was the music that connected the sections/characters, which I found very annoying.

But the story was fascinating, and the changing perspectives given on the same events from different genders and different ages....I enjoyed it immensely, and the readers were great!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Could have been worse...

...I might have had to read it. I would have a harder time reading this book than listening to it.

I gave it three stars only because if I had read it I would probably have given it two.

Frankly, I'm not sure what this story really was about. People lying to themselves? People not believing when others speak the truth? People punishing others for living what they perceive as false lives? People punishing others because they are unhappy with the way their lives turned out?
Big Brother is everywhere? Big Brother turns a blind-eye to trysts in a church? Movie theaters are romantic?

I could go on and on and on - just like the book!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Not for Audio

Although I suspect I would enjoy this book in written form, the audio version of this book was was actually painful to sit through. The pace tedious, the tone annoying.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 03-14-06

Almost worth it

This book did have meaningful core concept, and the writing was not too bad, but characterization seemed mechanical to me and the story was overly one dimensional. I particularly did not enjoy the numerous repetitious prose. The readers were all wonderful, but the overall experience was not quite worth the listen.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Boring

The stream of consciousness narrative slowed to a trickle of drivel at times. While i managed to finish the book, I am too impatient to examine it further for any redeeming qualities. Blah. Take a pass.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful