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There But For The - Book Group Discussion Thread

7 watchers
Nov 2018
8:53pm, 19 Nov 2018
9961 posts
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Ah postieboy I felt sorry for Brooke being hated by her teacher for being a smarty pants
McG - the dinner party was my least favourite part of all it was layered on so thick it might as well have been a Harry Enfield sketch
Dec 2018
6:49pm, 7 Dec 2018
16840 posts
  • 0
Very clever, I thought this author was (haven't read anything else of hers), indeed too clever to engage me with the people, though when I went back for a second reading I did become very fond of Brooke even though I can't really believe in her. The second reading was essential; without it I would have returned it to the library with a vague feeling that it was about a precocious little girl, a man who shut himself into a room for no very apparent reason, a dinner-party with some rather obnoxious guests, an old lady who doesn't want to be sent to a care home, and the whole set in a place which it just happens I know rather well. In fact, I was there last weekend, visiting Eldest Son and family; Crooms Hill (mentioned in the book) is only a stone's throw away, and the church of Our Ladye Star of the Sea, mentioned in the book as a landmark, is where I went to Mass last Sunday morning.

The full quotation is "There but for the grace of God, go I". I wondered why the title had been chosen; couldn't see the relevance. On second reading I discovered several references to Grace, the first being Anna's mother's having been made redundant by Grace, which was Group Routing and Changing Equipment. Later there is a brief story about a girl called Grace, references to Gracie Fields, and (when Josie falls off a chair trying to take the battery out of the smoke alarm so that she can smoke), reference (by Josie herself) to "a fall from grace".

Oh yes, Greenwich. As I get off the train at Greenwich station, I happen to know there is no escalator at Greenwich DLR, which the author says there is. Grrr.

I really didn't like the dinner-party scene, which the author seems to be using at least partly for virtue signalling; we are encouraged to sneer at people who assume black people have come from Africa, and at people who - in this day and age! - assume them-and-us-ish attitudes towards men who are gay.

OK, that's enough to be going on with, now I shall read back.
Dec 2018
7:26pm, 9 Dec 2018
25482 posts
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Haven't read back.

I liked this. It's been a while since I finished it and I notice I gave it an 8. I liked the idea, and the characters. I did have the feeling, like I did with How to be both, that I was missing something. I feel a bit like Ali Smith is a bit too clever for me, and that's a bit irritating. I gave it an 8, though, so I must have enjoyed reading it :)
Dec 2018
7:30pm, 9 Dec 2018
25483 posts
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Gosh. I can't tell you how pleased I am that everyone basically thought the same as me :)
Feb 2019
4:21pm, 2 Feb 2019
9195 posts
  • 0
Little Nemo
This is my second Ali Smith book. I liked the writing in How To Be Both but I didn't like the structure as I would have preferred to have a novel for each of the 2 parts. I was slightly dubious about this when I realised it was different parts again.

However this worked much better as a whole even if we never really find out much about Miles. He's just a bit player in each of the narrator's section but it does seem as though he's important even if he sometimes has just a fleeting interaction.

I struggled with the interior monologue style at times, felt very suffocating and hard to read for more than a few minutes. I did find some bits very moving and other bits very funny, especially the Guardian article!!! :-)

My favourite character was the little girl, really hope she manages to find a way to survive at school. It reminded me a little bit of when if you're a clever child you eventually have to hide it to not be bullied :-(

I gave this book a 7
Feb 2019
5:02pm, 2 Feb 2019
26227 posts
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Yes. I felt some empathy with her, too.
Feb 2020
11:15am, 25 Feb 2020
118055 posts
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This is still on my 'to read' pile I notice.
Feb 2020
11:35am, 25 Feb 2020
45344 posts
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I have no recollection of this one at all. I think I was a bit preoccupied at the time.
Feb 2020
11:36am, 25 Feb 2020
33509 posts
  • 0
I didn't either until I read my comments

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