Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Prize Winning Fiction
Prize Winning Fiction

2005 Costa Winner

The Accidental by Ali Smith


Publisher: Penguin

Length: 305 pages

About: Norfolk holiday upset by stranger

Style: 3rd person

Where: Norfolk, England

When: 2003



Publisher’s synopsis:


Arresting and wonderful, The Accidental pans in on the Norfolk holiday home of the Smart family one hot summer. There a beguiling stranger called Amber appears at the door bearing all sorts of unexpected gifts, trampling over family boundaries and sending each of the Smarts scurrying from the dark into the light.


A novel about the ways that seemingly chance encounters irrevocably transform our understanding of ourselves, The Accidental explores the nature of truth, the role of fate and the power of storytelling.




She had ignored him over supper.

She had ignored him the whole time.

She had sat opposite him as if he wasn't there. He may as well himself have been an empty chair opposite her, a space, an innocent nothing. But he had made her car start. He had made an excellent supper. He would make warmed pears in hot chocolate sauce and then he would watch her cut with the edge of her spoon, scoop it up, put her spoon in her mouth and chew and swallow something that tasted very good indeed, and scoop more food into her spoon and open her mouth for the spoon again.

Any minute now she would step back through the door into the room.







Representing a child's voice in a novel is a tricky thing. One has to negotiate the twin perils of overwriting and underwriting the part......Ali Smith pulls it off with terrific verve in this novel, which is a skilful exercise in free indirect style: the characters are not first-person narrators, but lovingly distinguished third-person points of view.

For full review click here

The Guardian, Steven Poole, 11th June 2005


Not so good:

Worse, Ms. Smith's efforts to play up Amber's mythic qualities and to underscore the self-conscious, postmodern aspects of this story feel contrived and clumsy in the extreme.

For full review click here

The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani, 27th January 2006




About the author

She was born in 1962 to working-class parents, raised in a council house in Inverness, Scotland and now lives in Cambridge. She studied at the University of Aberdeen and then at Newnham College, Cambridge, for a PhD that she never finished. She worked as a lecturer at University of Strathclyde until she fell ill with CFS/ME. Following this she became a full-time writer and now writes for The Guardian, The Scotsman, and the Times Literary Supplement. Openly gay, she lives in Cambridge with her partner filmmaker Sarah Wood.

In 2007 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature

In 2009, she donated the short story Last (previously published in the Manchester Review Online) to Oxfam's 'Ox-Tales' project, four collections of UK stories written by 38 authors. Her story was published in the 'Fire' collection.


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Age guide: 15






Books by same author:

Like (1997)

Hotel World (2001),      

Girl Meets Boy (2007),

There But For The (2011   

How To Be Both (2014)








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2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner

It's a massive day in arts and journalism because the 100th annual Pulitzer Prize winners were just announced, and there's a big surprise. 2015's best artistic and nonfiction writing across 21 categories were recognized during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York City. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Hebert Bayward Swope, a reporter for The New York World, in 1916. (And if you're as big a fan of Newsies as I am, that paper should ring a bell, but try to think of it more positively.)

The major prize for book nerds, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press), a legitimate surprise, if you've been paying attention to the book nerd and industry buzz. The feeling around the prize in the last few months would have you putting all your hard-earned cash down on A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara to take home the award, but that's why you should never gamble. Viet Thanh Nguyen is no less deserving, and moreover, it's his debut novel, which makes it such a wonderful win.

Extract from New York Times to view full article...

Click here


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