Synopses & Reviews
Bold new writing from Scotland's leading and emerging gay writers, including Ali Smith, Louise Welsh, Jackie Kay, Ronald Frame, and Toni Davidson With 24 pieces that as a whole provide an important snapshot of gay writing in the 21st century, this is a definitive anthology of prose writing from Scotland's leading and emerging gay writers. The collection includes the likes of Ali Smith, whose The Accidental was nominated for the Man Booker and Orange Prizes, and winner of Whitbread Novel of the Year; Louise Welsh, whose The Cutting Room was nominated for the Orange Prize and won the Creasey Dagger; Jackie Kay, winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize and shortlisted for PEN/Ackerley and Costa prizes; Ronald Frame, author of Havisham; Toni Davidson, author of Scar Culture; and many exciting new voices. The writing is as provocative, thoughtful, moving, and fully-charged with energy as one would expect from the country's celebrated community of LGBT artists.
The Accidental is the dizzyingly entertaining, wickedly humorous story of a mysterious stranger whose sudden appearance during a familys summer holiday transforms four variously unhappy people. Each of the Smarts-parents Eve and Michael, son Magnus, and the youngest, daughter Astrid-encounter Amber in his or her own solipsistic way, but somehow her presence allows them to se their lives (and their life together) in a new light. Smiths exhilarating facility with language, her narrative freedom, and her chromatic wordplay propel the novel to its startling, wonderfully enigmatic conclusion.Ali Smiths acclaimed novel won the prestigious Whitbread Award and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.
The Accidental is the dizzyingly entertaining, wickedly humorous story of a mysterious stranger whose sudden appearance during a family’s summer holiday transforms four variously unhappy people. Each of the Smarts–parents Eve and Michael, son Magnus, and the youngest, daughter Astrid–encounter Amber in his or her own solipsistic way, but somehow her presence allows them to se their lives (and their life together) in a new light. Smith’s exhilarating facility with language, her narrative freedom, and her chromatic wordplay propel the novel to its startling, wonderfully enigmatic conclusion.
Ali Smith’s acclaimed novel won the prestigious Whitbread Award and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.
About the Author
is the author of six works of fiction, including the novel Hotel World
, which was short–listed for both the Orange Prize and the Booker Prize in 2001 and won the Encore Award and the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award in 2002. Her story collections include Free Love
, which won the Saltire Society Scottish First Book Award and a Scottish Arts Council Award, and The Whole Story and Other Stories
. Born in Inverness, Scotland, in 1962, Smith now lives in Cambridge, England.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
WHITBREAD AWARD WINNER
and a Man Booker Prize, Orange Prize, and James Tait Black Memorial Prize Finalist
“Astonishing. . . . Vivid and affecting. . . . Wonderfully supple, jazzy.”
—The New York Times
The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your groups discussion of Ali Smiths extraordinary novel, The Accidental, winner of Britains prestigious Whitbread award.
1. Why has Ali Smith chosen The Accidental as her title? What accidents occur in the novel? Are these events really accidents? What are their consequences?
2. What effects does Smith create by telling the story through each family members point of view? How would the novel have been different if told through a single omniscient narrator?
3. In describing her Genuine Articles, Eve Smart claims that “fiction has the unique power of revealing something true” [p. 82]. How is it that fiction can often deliver deeper truths than nonfiction? What truths does The Accidental reveal?
4. Having dinner with his family, Magnus thinks that “Everybody at this table is in broken pieces which wont go together, pieces which are nothing to do with each other, like they all come from different jigsaws, all muddled together into the one box by some assistant who couldnt care less in a charity shop or wherever the place is that old jigsaws go to die” [p. 138]. In what ways are Astrid, Eve, Michael, and Magnus broken? What has broken each of them? Why dont they fit together?
5. How does Smith capture the angst of early adolescence so vividly in the character of Astrid? What kind of girl is she? What are her most engaging eccentricities? Why does she feel so casually hostile toward the rest of her family? Why is she so captivated by Amber?
6. How is Amber so easily able to ingratiate herself with the Smarts? What makes her such a compelling person for all of them?
7. Amber often tells the truth so directly that she is thought to be joking, as when she comes down to dinner with Magnus announcing that she found him in the bathroom trying to hang himself. Everyone laughs but in fact she is telling exactly what happened. What is the significance of this irony—that the truth, plainly stated, is impossible for the Smarts to believe?
8. Who is Amber? Is she a con artist, a pathological liar, a psychic, a soothsayer, a malevolent force of nature, a witch, an angel? What profound effects, good and bad, does she have on each member of the Smart family?
9. Remembering Bergmans films, Eve asks: “Did dark times naturally result in dark art?” [p. 178]. Do they? Is The Accidental itself a dark novel about a dark time? If so, how so?
10. Why has Smith chosen Smart as the name of the family in the novel? In what ways are they smart and not so smart?
11. Amber appears to bring catastrophe to the Smart family. In what ways could it be argued that she has been good for them? What do they discover about themselves because of her? Have the Smarts unconsciously drawn Amber to them?
12. Magnus tries hard to suppress his feelings about contributing to a fellow students suicide. He “understands that if he ever let it be known that he feels anything at all, things will fly apart, the whole room will disintegrate, as if detonated” [p. 151]. In what ways is this refusal to feel, to know and acknowledge painful truths, a central theme in The Accidental? Do things fly apart when Magnus begins to feel the consequences of his actions?
13. What does The Accidental say about family life? In what ways are the Smarts both a typical and an atypical family?
14. Why does Smith choose to end the novel with Eves journey to America? What is likely to happen in the future to the Smart family?