I've read several of Ali Smith's books. The one that blew me away is Hotel World, which combines breathtakingly lyrical, innovative writing with a sharp, clear-eyed, harsh class consciousness that is rare in contemporary fiction--or should I say that we in North America rarely get to see. Check out the first line, complete with loopy vertiginous echoes of Mrs. Dalloway:
Wooooooo--This is the first-person narrator, a hotel maid, at the moment of her death. The rest of the novel takes us through the events that brought her here, events that have everything to do with class society, with women's oppression, with heterosexism. It is a tour de force and if it were the only book Ali Smith ever wrote it would earn her a place on my favorite authors list.
hooooooo what a fall what a soar what a plummet what a dash into dark into light what a plunge what a glide thud crash what a drop what a rush what a swoop what a fright what a mad hushed skirl what a smash mush mash-up broke and gashed what a heart in my mouth what an end.
The Accidental, which won the Whitbread Award a couple years ago, is, not surprisingly, Smith's one book that fell flat for me. As a purely literary exercise it is interesting. But it didn't resonate with me at all. Her next, in 2007, was the lovely but slight Girl Meets Boy. I'm hopeful, precisely because of the NYTBR's digs against it for being too overtly political, that with The First Person Ali Smith is back to passionately engaged, full-throated form.