Saturday, June 24, 2006


I realized last weekend that I couldn't remember the last novel I read. I'd been doing a lot of reading, but when I wasn't reading for school (case studies in neuropsychology - and I had a lot of catch-up reading to do to feel I could understand the class), I was reading for my thesis, all non-fiction books somehow pertaining to combat. And I was enjoying both, but I realized I missed being in someone else's imagination.

So at an airport in Canada (long story), I killed time in one of the identical news/book/candy/cheap souvenir stores and let myself find a novel that caught my eye.

I read The Accidental, by Ali Smith. I'd never heard of it, nor had I heard of the author. The book was published in England, and I don't even know if it's available in the US.

I recommend it. A family of four - a mother, step-father, 16-year-old son, and 12-year-old daughter - spends the summer in a run-down house in Norfolk while the mother tries to get inspired to write her next book. Along comes, for lack of a better term, the "plot device." A woman named Amber shows up and kind of moves in and takes over the emotional life of the family. The parents both assume she's a guest of the other. The kids are just glad to have a distraction from their boredom and suicidal guilt. The concept of Amber, and her character and motivations, is not quite explained to my satisfaction. I'd hate to have to write a paper on this book to come up with a solid idea behind her existance. Though the character may seem contrived, she really isn't. And the character development she inspires in the family is remarkable. The book rotates between limited third-person perspective of each of the family. Every character's voice is unmistakable and honest.

There are things that can't be said because it is hard to have to know them. There are things you can't get away from after you know them. It is ver complicated to know anything. It is a bit like his mother being obsessed by all the foul things that have happened to people; all those books about the Holocaust she'd got piled up in her study at home. Because how can you ever be all right again? Can you ever not know again?

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