There but for the

Smith, Ali, 1962-

Book - 2011
Average Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
There but for the
Random House, Inc.
From the award-winning author of Hotel World and The Accidental, a dazzling, funny, and wonderfully exhilarating new novel.

At a dinner party in the posh London suburb of Greenwich, Miles Garth suddenly leaves the table midway through the meal, locks himself in an upstairs room, and refuses to leave. An eclectic group of neighbors and friends slowly gathers around the house, and Miles’s story is told from the points of view of four of them: Anna, a woman in her forties; Mark, a man in his sixties; May, a woman in her eighties; and a ten-year-old named Brooke. The thing is, none of these people knows Miles more than slightly. How much is it possible for us to know about a stranger? And what are the consequences of even the most casual, fleeting moments we share every day with one another?

Brilliantly audacious, disarmingly playful, and full of Smith’s trademark wit and puns,There but for the is a deft exploration of the human need for separation—from our pasts and from one another—and the redemptive possibilities for connection. It is a tour de force by one of our finest writers.

Baker & Taylor
When Miles Garth locks himself in an upstairs room during a dinner party and communicates only through notes slipped under the door, his involuntary hosts beg help from childhood friend Anna, who is unwittingly thrust into the family's surreal world.

& Taylor

When Miles Garth locks himself in an upstairs room during a dinner party and communicates only through notes slipped under the door, his involuntary hosts beg help from childhood friend Anna, who is unwittingly thrust into the family's surreal world. By the Whitbread Award-winning author of The Accidental.

Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, c2011
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 9780375424090
Branch Call Number: FIC S
Characteristics: xiii, 236 p. ; 25 cm.


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Dec 16, 2014
  • KindianaJones rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Ali Smith obviously loves language and word play. A joy to read.

Apr 21, 2014
  • Cecilturtle rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I found this book incredibly appealing. Through snippets of stories and various perspectives, Smith shows the ignorance, prejudice, differences and social habits to which we are all attuned but which we mostly choose to ignore.
What struck me most was the silence as a common theme and how the quiet or silent characters are the ones who have the most effect, the central being of which is Miles and his strange action. Ultimately, this book is about quietness and what it can open up: everything from Gen's greediness to Josie's generosity, from Mark's kindness to Anna's re-connectedness with the past, from Brooke's young, open curiosity to May's old, questioning wisdom.
Not an easy story to follow, but one that will keep readers dreaming and thinking.

Feb 17, 2014
  • hazel161 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

So delightful, so sunny and mordant, such a fresh way to tell a story. I loved every character. Yes, even the hostess. I read this as an audiobook, and it is wonderfully voiced. I am trying to give this 5 or 6 stars, whatever full marks is, but the program is resisting me.

Apr 15, 2013
  • patienceandfortitude rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Before I read this book I was told that an entire book club of 10 people hated it. Not exactly encouraging, but although I feel a bit like a freak, I really loved this book. The characters and premise are charming and wonderful. It is really almost worth reading twice because I feel like I'm missing some of it on the first read. The general premise is a guest at a dinner party locks himself in a room and refuses to leave or to speak to anyone. The book is built around the other guests and other people in the locked in man's life. Fascinating -- really.

Dec 28, 2012
  • Mikela rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

I almost abandoned this book many times during the 275 pages but hung in there with the conviction that it would all come together and make sense before the end. Sadly, I admit that I'm just not clever enough to ascertain what the point was so ended up hugely disappointed with it.

Jun 14, 2012
  • uncommonreader rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

This story of a man who stays at a dinner party may be good, but I personally could not get into it.

Jan 28, 2012
  • quagga rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

An insightful and darkly comic look at modern society.

Sep 30, 2011
  • ksoles rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

What would you do if, in the middle of a dinner party, one of your guests rose from the table, went upstairs and locked himself in your spare bedroom? Ali Smith presents such a scenario in her latest novel: in spite of coaxing from bewildered hosts and confused guests, Miles Garth refuses to leave Gen and Eric Lee's guest room and communicates only through notes he delivers under the door.

As a media frenzy ensues, a cast of characters from "Milo's" past emerges to shape the author's four chapters. Forty-something Anna Hardie met Miles in 1980 on a European Grand Tour; gay sexagenarian Mark Palmer, whose late mother speaks to him in verse, tried to pick Miles up at a Shakespeare festival; elderly dementia sufferer May Young benefited from Miles' help with grieving for her late daughter; and precocious ten-year-old Brooke finally breaks through to Miles with her wit and cleverness.

"There But For The" contains exquisite and heartbreaking scenes written in experimental, kinetic prose. Themes of time, isolation and identity provide a thought-provoking read and the non-linear story line engages the reader's intellect. However, Smith often overtaxes the narrative with exaggerated stream-of-consciousness, which distracts the reader from the plot's tension. Dialogue between characters tends toward the precious and inauthentic, filled with puns and double entendres. Brooke, especially, with her references to classic literature and obscure erotica, comes across as a literary tool as opposed to a genuine personality.


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