A hot summer in England. The Smart family have rented a house where one day beautiful Amber turns up. Father Michael sees in her first one of the students with whom he regularly has affairs. His wife Eve seems to know about his infidelities but she does not comment on it. In Amber, she sees the woman she is not and she re-assesses the decisions she has made in her life. The daughter Astrid is intrigued by this young woman from whom she can learn so much, especially things like shoplifting, something she has never dreamt of before. Teenager Magnus is somewhere between being a child and an adult – Amber agilely introduces him to the later. They all bond with this fascinating girl, not foreboding what she will do to them.
Ali Smith’s novel has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2005. I can see why, she has a capacity of using and playing with language which you can rarely find. The different styles she can offer in only one single book is just incredible, especially her sonnet interlude is remarkable. Apart from the stylistic aspects, she also very cleverly portrays how a person can capture the others’ trust, approaching them in very different ways to seduce them in different kinds. The way Amber plays with the Smart family is almost unbelievable. She can even insult them and is still loved and admired.
Nevertheless, for me the novel was a bit too experimental. Some parts rather confused me than push forward the plot. I would have preferred a story which is a bit more straightforward, even though I really liked those small episodes, memories of a time long gone and breaks from the present reality.