The Accidental

The Accidental
Last night I finished The Accidental by Ali Smith, which y’all recommended a few months ago. Unfortunately… I didn’t like it much. I feel like an absolute git for saying that, because it won all sorts of awards and every single review I can dig up is uniformly positive. Yet somehow it just didn’t grab me. I guess maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for big, plotty stories (whether in books or movies), and I’ve never gone in for inscrutable character or mood pieces very much. This book reminded me of an Art Film. Intellectually I can tell that the writing is excellent and I can see what people are praising about it, but I didn’t really find myself engaged on an emotional level. (I’m moving the rest of my thoughts inside, lest anyone get spoiled.)The one section I did connect with was Magnus’s first chapter (during his depressive phase). The way his thoughts kept cycling; the way he kept dwelling on the dead girl; the way he talked about the bullies. I couldn’t put the book down during this section… right up until the point he tried to hang himself, but then Amber found him and bathed him and everybody laughed. WTF? I think I actually groaned outloud when I read that. “Your son just tried to kill himself. ” Hilarious laughter. How is that realistic? Unfortunately I found Michael, Eve, and Astrid all a little bit boring. (Which is odd, because most of those reviews rave about Smith’s ability to write convincingly as a 12-year-old girl. I guess I find most 12-year-olds boring.) And Amber herself annoyed the crap out of me. I was with her up until the point she started shagging Magnus and tossing video cameras and behaving less like a person and more like a literary device. So all in all I’m not sorry I read it – Ali Smith is an excellent writer and certain passages have really stuck with me – but I wouldn’t say I found it very entertaining.

I’ve still got a few books left in my “To Read” pile. I think we’ll go with Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys next…


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  1. Eh. That review depressed me with its negativity. I really don’t mean to recommend against it. If you liked it, please try to persuade me! I’m willing to reconsider.

  2. Aww. I loved this book. Oh well. I read “Handmaid’s Tale” because of you and loved it, so you win some, you lose some.

  3. I know! That’s why I’m trying to change my own mind. 🙂

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