Sunday, May 14, 2006

"The Accidental"

I am slowly managing to work my way through the Orange Prize shortlist. I finished “The Accidental” by Ali Smith last week but revision and the like has got in the way of me giving it any kind of post-read thought.

It is a truly beautiful novel. I am a big fan of the modernists and this captures the stylistic experimentation that they epitomise. The characters are a mother, step father, son and daughter on holiday, and their enigmatic visitor Amber. Perhaps enigmatic is not quite the right word, but mysterious and catalytic in any case. Each chapter is inhabited by the thoughts of an individual character and the style of writing does as much to animate the characters as the thoughts they express and the things they say – for example at one point in the novel the arrogant, oversexed and self absorbed step father thinks in terrible poetry, which is both funny and desperately sad.

It is a great portrayal of a broken family, with a fantastic cyclical storyline, but I found that the plot and the themes were secondary. The writing is so beautiful, every word used and every method of expression chosen is exactly right. I would put this novel alongside anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Toni Morrison in terms of sheer literary perfection. Don't want to write too much about this one though as it is the subject of my bookgroup!

Although I would highly recommend “Beyond Black”, “The Accidental” is currently my favourite. Next up “The History of Love” if my friend from college will lend it to me – not sure I have high hopes for that one but fingers crossed anyway.


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