Book of the Month – February 2020

The Accidental by Ali Smith

The Accidental by Ali Smith

A beguiling page-turner, The Accidental pans in on the Norfolk holiday home of the Smart family one hot summer. A stranger called Amber appears at the door bearing all sorts of unexpected gifts, trampling over family boundaries and sending each of the Smarts scurrying from the dark into the light.

This is a novel about the ways 'chance encounters' can irrevocably transform our understanding of ourselves. It explores the nature of truth, the role of fate and the power of storytelling.

"Spectacular... Allusive, ambitious and formally acrobatic... Original, restless, formally and morally challenging, [Ali Smith] remains a writer who resists definition" – Times Literary Supplement.

Read it? Loved it? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #HayBookoftheMonth.

Buy the book

See Ali Smith at Hay Festival 2020

Listen to Ali Smith speaking about The Accidental at Hay Festival 2005

Further reading...

Why Ali Smith is the national novelist we need, New Statesman (April 2019)

"This young generation is showing us that we need to change and we can change", Guardian (March 2019)

There Enters a Stranger, and a Family Finds Its Prism, New York Times (January 2006)

About the author

Described by the author Sebastian Barry as ‘Scotland’s Nobel Laureate-in-waiting’, Ali Smith is one of Britain’s foremost contemporary novelists. Formally and topically experimental, her best known works include Girl Meets Boy (part of the Canongate Myths series), There But For The, How to Be Both, which won the Baileys Prize, the Goldsmiths Prize and the Costa Novel Award and was shortlisted for the Man Booker and the Folio Prize, and her Seasonal Quartet, Autumn, Winter, Spring and the upcoming Summer.

About Hay Festival's Book of the Month

Hay Festival's Book of the Month is our monthly recommendation of a title we've loved and think holds added resonance today. While many recommendations celebrate the new, this is a chance to celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry – new and old – that reaches through time to touch the present.

Throughout the month, we'll share interesting links and articles relating to our selection on social media using #HayBookoftheMonth and invite you all to get involved with your questions and comments.

Over on Hay Player, a special playlist of talks to view online offer additional perspectives on the books from some of the greatest writers and thinkers around the world.

If you'd like to recommend a book for consideration, please email

Happy reading!