The Accidental by Ali Smith - a Book Review

I've picked up this book after about two years it has gathered sliver of accumulated dusts in the unreached corner of my overburdened bookshelf. I remember of reading at least a dozen pages of it early last year, perhaps earlier than that.

Ali Smith is a writer of inexhaustible energy it seems. The first chapter describes a twelve year old girl, the way she tries to cope in a "substandard" summer vacation home with her parents and a sibling, away from her schoolmates. Her Sony Dv camera gives her comfort. She snaps at everything, theorizing, imagining reality beyond reality, even pondering about science and irony: "Astrid knocks her hand against the side of the chair to see if it will hurt. It does, but not very much. She knocks again, harder. It hurts more. Of course science can prove, typical and ironic, that her hand is not actually hitting the chair by dividing down he distance smaller and smaller. She hits it again. Ow."

The outside world is a mystery to her. She imagines traveling to a faraway place and time (1003 BC) to a cave to meet "Any the Wiser" with her offering of croissants. "She is at the door of a cave. She is carrying croissants. Any the Wiser is delighted. He nods at Astrid to come forward.

He glints at her through the darkness of the cave; he is old and wise; he has a fatherly look in his eye. Answer my question, oh revered sage and oracle, Astrid begins." That's the most she can say, as she is unsure of what to ask this sage man of thousands of years in past in her vivid imagination.

Unlike eccentric Astrid, her seventeen year old brother Magnus, a whiz in mathematics, was full of despair from the death of a classmate that he blames himself to be part of. When it seemed life could no longer bearable, in one form or another for Magnus, his writer's block induced mother Eve, and his promiscuous step father Michael, here comes Amber, mysteriously walked into their life, with her incredulous straight forward talks, charming the entire family with irresistible magnetism, where both the mother Eve and the step father Michael in the beginning erroneously thought she was a visitor of other.

Ali Smith's characters in this story are lively and the way she portrayed each of their thoughts, actions, dialogues, without compromising the neatly crafted plot, has kept this novel a page turner from beginning to end.