Surprise and Chance are intrusive. They wedge themselves in people’s lives without notice and the outcomes are unpredictable. No one knows what might happen or what shape lives will take. And this is the crux of Ali Smith’s, “The Accidental”. Though it is quite an old release, Penguin has come out with a great edition under “Penguin Ink” titles with a beautiful cover– hence the review.
The Accidental revolves around the Smart family – who are in particular need of an unexpected element to jostle their lives. All of them are on the brink of a major crisis in their lives and need that one distraction to fit everything in place – like an unsolved jigsaw puzzle. Enter: Amber – a stranger, the Smart children encounter on a summer holiday in Norfolk village. Amber’s intentions are unknown and mysterious, and yet she ends up transforming the family, and fixing the family’s set of fraught relationships.
A lot is happening in the book – a philandering husband, a son’s guilt, a daughter’s confusion and a mother’s secrets – the novel follows each member of the family – in sequential chapters – through beginning, middle and end. Amber is everything that you do not want to encounter and that is because what she brings to the family – uncovering their lives bit by bit, trying to restore order.
The novel is told in a stream of consciousness manner – and I love that writing style. This gives readers a glimpse into the inner lives of each member of the family and allows events to be viewed from multiple perspectives. Ali Smith’s writing is unpredictable. No two books are similar and neither is the writing. The characters are well drawn and there are no archetypes or stereotypes, which works best while writing this kind of a book. The Accidental is a book that calls for attention and there is nothing the reader can do but give it its due. A wonderful read and yet strangely disturbing and contemplative. A read that I would recommend to all.