Artful by Ali Smith

Artful by Ali Smith - Certainly a Challenging Read and may leave you feeling a tad inadequate! 

We've read a couple of light reads recently so it was time for something with a bit more substance.

Artful is certainly that - it's got a compelling story that is interesting and intriguing.

The Plot

It's about a man/woman who has been in mourning for her lover who passed away a year ago. The dead woman still keeps showing up though, coming to the house to watch TV, or read over her lecture notes at her desk. Is it just the amazing work of the alive man's/woman's imagination or is there really a ghost visiting her?

This part of the story is easy to follow but is still fairly dark given the haunting subject matter of grief and death. But interspersed with this main story are 4 lectures that the dead woman was supposed to give and these are very philosophical and require a few reads to really get what the writer, Ali Smith, is absolutely getting at...I'm still not sure I've got even half of it! The lectures are

    On Time
    On Form
    On Edge
    On Reflection

The alive woman has also picked up a copy of Oliver Twist by Dickens and various parts of this book are retold and analysed for us which we all found, interesting, perhaps because we could understand a little more what the author was trying to say!


Our book club meeting was in itself interesting with the group absolutely split by the book. Some gave it 7/10 for its challenging nature. Others hated it giving it 3/10.

I've decided not to provide a full page on this book as I don't think it's a book club book. It's far too academic. The lectures are interesting but in my opinion, too challenging.

None of our group are super literary geniuses, but equally I would say we are all intelligent and well educated. Yet, we struggled to totally understand this book.

The way it is written (some would say without form, which is interesting in itself given the title of one of the lectures is on "form") is scatty and confusing. The author never seems to reach a coherent conclusion before moving onto the next topic within a topic. 

That said there were elements of the book that we liked. The analysis of The Artful Dodger and Oliver Twist was more coherent and easier to understand.

The references to the Greek actress were also interesting and made most of us go onto "YouTube" to view her movie clips. The interactive nature of the book in this way seemed very modern and certainly added to the experience.

It is also the sort of book you want to flip back and forth on, so many of us who read it on the kindle, found it a bit frustrating as it's just not that easy to go back and find a certain section again.

Other areas of our discussion included whether we thought the four titles of the lectures reflected the stages of mourning/recovery that the main character is going through.

We also discussed the "sexless" aspect of the main characters. It wasn't clear from the writing whether the main character was male or female and everyone in the group had a different interpretation. It's interesting to note that the author is a lesbian, so it could very much have been a female mourning another female.

Only read this book if you studied literature at university, otherwise, it will leave you feeling really inadequate!

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