There But For The
By Ali Smith
Completed March 4, 2012
Hold on to your thinking caps – you will need them for Ali Smith’s latest novel, There But For The. Told from four different perspectives, this novel centers around the self-imprisonment of Miles Garth. A guest at a dinner party, Miles excuses himself from the table and ventures upstairs. While his hosts assume he used the restroom and then left without saying good-bye, they are surprised to learn that Miles has locked himself into their guest bedroom. And Miles doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon.
As each narrator’s story begins, their connection to Miles becomes apparent. Each person represents a different age group: Anna in her forties, Mark in his sixties, May in her eighties and Brooke, who is 10. Interestingly, none of these narrators know Miles very well – their lives only crossing each other through small encounters. Indeed, you learn more about the narrators than you learn about Miles.
May’s story was the most interesting and easiest to read. However, the entire book is not for the literary faint of heart. There is enough stream of consciousness to make James Joyce proud. Some sections of the story went over my head, specifically the dinner conversation during Mark’s section, and the ramblings of 10-year-old Brooke tried my patience (she was a tad too precocious to be realistic).
With that said, there is no denying Ali Smith and her literary gusto. There But For The may be a difficult book to read and absorb, but it definitely was a provocative story. It left many questions unanswered and would make an excellent discussion for book clubs and upper-level English lit classes. If you aren’t intimidated by literary fiction, then check out There But For The. It has some magic that will appeal to the right reader. ( )