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by Ali Smith
     
 

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When we meet Amy Shone, she is a young parent struggling to raise Kate, a precocious eight-year-old. Amy is an enigma -- a brilliant scholar who has forgotten how to read. She is estranged from her wealthy English parents and lives a nomadic life in Scotland, dragging Kate from one school to the next, barely scraping by.

And then there is Ash, a fiery Scottish

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Overview

When we meet Amy Shone, she is a young parent struggling to raise Kate, a precocious eight-year-old. Amy is an enigma -- a brilliant scholar who has forgotten how to read. She is estranged from her wealthy English parents and lives a nomadic life in Scotland, dragging Kate from one school to the next, barely scraping by.

And then there is Ash, a fiery Scottish actress who cannot shake her demons -- chief among them an unrequited passion for Amy that has obsessed her ever since they met as teenagers.

Like is the story of two parallel lives that intersect briefly, then diverge. It is also a timeless evocation of adolescence and its agonizing anticipations, its contradictory yearnings for freedom and safety, its blind quest for mastery over pleasure and pain.

Editorial Reviews

Times (London)
Ali Smith's is a major talent.
Scotland on Sunday
A triumphant display of style and originality. [Smith] is an exquisite writer, her eye poetic, her horizons alluring.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A former academic flees the protection of her parents' upper-middle-class English home after a nervous breakdown deprives her of the power to read in this quiet, accomplished first novel from Scottish writer Smith (Free Love). The first section, alternately narrated by Amy Shone and her precocious seven-year-old daughter, Kate, contains sharp-eyed observations of the unconventional relationship of mother and daughter, who live as itinerants in a caravan park in Scotland. Amy doesn't know who Kate's father was, and, in her volatile mental state, is tempted to abandon her daughter on more than one occasion. But maternal love keeps her more or less stable. It is on Kate's behalf that she ultimately returns to her parents' house after an eight-year absence, where she borrows enough money to go to Pompeii. There, the area's historical resonance affects Amy in unforeseen ways. In the less successful second section, a young movie actress named Ash (short for Aisling McCarthy) reminisces about her relationship with the cold, brilliant Amy when they were both schoolgirls; her crush became a nearly overwhelming obsession when she followed Amy to university. After continual rebuffs, Ash commits arson in an effort to win Amy's attention--burning her books and implicitly destroying her academic career with the gesture. Smith's writing, at its strongest, is unhurried, perceptive, tender and graceful. This is a skillful portrayal of three unusual women who bring to their lives more questions than answers. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Kate Shone is as bright and unusual as her name, but this little eight-year-old has a problematic life. She lives hand-to-mouth with her mom, who moves from job to job, uprooting Kate just as she is making friends and getting used to her new school. But Amy Shone is no washed-out hippie or undereducated cocktail waitress; she's a scholar whose mother is an important TV celebrity, but something has happened to throw her off course, alienate her from her parents, and even render her illiterate for a time. Just what that cataclysm might have been isn't even hinted at until halfway through the book, but when the vibrant Aisling McCarthy is mentioned by a snoopy reporter, you known she somehow figured in Amy's current confusion. It hardly matters how, though, for the real treat here is Scottish first novelist Smith's mellifluous prose and wonderful rendering of the relationship between mother and daughter. For all literary collections.--Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Kirkus Reviews
In a loosely threaded first novel, Scottish writer Smith luminously evokes the long, dark shadow cast by obsessions born in adolescence. Two young women, Amy Scone and Ash McCarthy, meet as teenagers when Amy's British family spends a summer vacation in Scotland next door to Ash. Eventually, the two will meet up again in Cambridge, where Amy has become a distinguished scholar; but as the story begins, the girls have been separated for many years. How that happenedþand when, and whyþis never made clear except through scattered hints here and there. At the start, Amy, caretaker for a seaside camping ground in Scotland, is living with eight-year-old Kate in a decrepit caravan. Kate, a clever child whose parentage is suggested but never established, has been put to work deciphering letters and whatnot for Amy, who is herself (unaccountably) no longer able to read and suffers from inexplicable fugue states. Later, just as inexplicably, Amy gradually finds her ability to read returning. She visits her wealthy and accomplished English parents for the first time in years; borrows money to take a trip with Kate to Italy; and, once settled back in Scotland, begins reinventing her life, with her old demons, so it would seem, safely banished. Meanwhile, the diary of 26-year-old Ash, a famous actress, at home in Scotland before heading to the US, is a long narrative riff on her compulsive love for Amy, which has never altered despite various affairs with other women. Trying to make sense of herself, her family, and her never-ending Amy-philia, Ash comes up with unsatisfying similes suggesting, for instance, with a flossy patness, that whatever happens it is always like somethingelseþonly, Amy's heart, as she once heard it, was really not like anything else. Lyrical but elliptical writing that ultimately bleeds the pain and passion out.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781860493171
Publisher:
Little, Brown Book Group Limited
Publication date:
02/29/2000
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.75(h) x 0.88(d)

What People are saying about this

Kate Atkinson
I love Ali Smith's prose -- clear and lucid and at the same time full of little quirks and subtleties that make hers an individual voice. Not only was the novel beautifully written but it was fascinating reading.

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