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Heather O'Neill plays Amber, a mysterious stranger who wangles her way into the lives of a vacationing English family spending the summer in a remote cottage. O'Neill reads with studious detachment and a persistent air of mischief, as if the entire story is a particularly juicy practical joke. Given Amber's predilection for wreaking havoc in her new adopted family's comfortably misguided lives, the emotion is supremely apropos. O'Neill is joined by a cast of performers, including Ruth Moore as the perpetually harried, perpetually preoccupied Eve, who spends all her time dreaming of the characters of the latest historical novel she's writing, and Stina Nielsen as Astrid, a 12-year-old with a frightening imagination and a propensity for recording the world on her video camera. The bulk of the book, though, is read by O'Neill, who provides a suitably nuanced reading, at times placid, at times flashing an air of free-floating menace. It is her work, above all, that brings Smith's novel to fully fleshed existence.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
British novelist and Booker Prize nominee Smith (Hotel World, 2001) renders acrobatic prose that seems in a perpetual state of acceleration. At the opening of her mesmerizing new novel, a barefoot, thirtysomething stranger named Amber abandons her broken-down car and arrives at the doorstep of Eve and Michael Smart, who are summering in Norfolk, England, with Eve's children, 12-year-old Astrid and 17-year-old Magnus. Amber stays for dinner and quickly weaves her way into the Smarts' lives, befriending impressionable Astrid; seducing math-whiz Magnus (guilt-ridden over his unwitting role in the suicide of a fellow student); enchanting their haughty, adulterous stepfather, Michael; and swiftly sizing up their mother, Eve, a writer conflicted over the success of her hack novels. The novel is alternately narrated by each member of the Smart family, but it is candid Astrid who steals the show, wandering through town with digital camera in hand. Some readers may be frustrated by the transparency of Amber, who serves as little more than a catalyst, prompting dramatic changes in the lives of her "accidental" hosts. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.