Book review: The Accidental

The Accidental- Ali Smith
This is a book that I've seen many a time in charity shops and I decided that the time was right to finally read it. Maybe I should have got the hint and thought about why it is available in every charity shop in the world. 

The Accidental tells the story of the Smart family and Amber, a strange woman who enters their lives one day as if from nowhere, and leaves behind her imprint. Each character narrates their own chapter in rotation, so we understand the viewpoints of every member. Astrid, the 12 year old daughter in the family was, for me, the most dynamic character. Her perceived emotional maturity is underlined with an inherent innocence and naivety that she can't quite shake off. The others were very two-dimensional, clichéd characters: The professor sleeping with his students, the awkward teenage mathematical geek, the frustrated writer/ mother aware of her husband's infidelities. Unfortunately, this method of storytelling isn't fresh or clever: It's just overused and stagnant. 
My main problem with the story was the horrific plot holes, most noticeably why nobody actually asked why Amber was there. The professor, Michael, assumes he is something to do with his wife, whilst Eva suspects she is one of his students. As a result of this misunderstanding, Amber is able to stay with the family for several days. Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't most couples talk about houseguests? I find it very hard to believe that at no point did either of them say "So... Amber. How long is she going to be around for?".

You know when you read a book and it takes everything you have to just keep ploughing on? That was this book for me. Sometimes, I'm rewarded with an interesting ending that almost makes up for it. This time, I was treated to a clumsy, unrefined conclusion that might as well have bashed me over the head saying "LOOK! EVENTS IN LIFE ARE CYCLICAL!".The intended irony and wit was completely lost in the predictability of it.
Would I recommend The Accidental? No. It seems, according to Goodreads, that it is very polarising. A lot of people applaud the literary devices and ingenuity of Smith. Personally, I don't think cramming as many literary techniques as you can into a book is any good if there is no logical plot or interesting characters. In the end, it just reads as completely unsubstantial and superficial. 


  1. I started reading this and got about half way through and like you say, there were way too many literary techniques happening, and competing, and it was taking away from the story too much for me and trying to be too clever. The story didn't actually hold me at all either though, and I'd forgotten what it was about until I read your review! I used to hate not finishing a book, but life is too short and my bookshelf too full to carry on with rubbish books x

    Claire | AgentSmyth

    1. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who thinks this! I have to finish books though. I can't bear leaving them unfinished!


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