The Accidental

Ali Smith, Author , read by Heather O'Neill, Simon Prebble, Jeff Woodman and a full cast. HighBridge Audio $34.95 (Unabridged, eight CDs, 9.5 hrs., $34.95) ISBN 978-1598870138

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. Simultaneous release with the Pantheon hardcover (Reviews, Oct. 31). (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 03/06/2006
Release date: 00/00/0000
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