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Charming and intelligent, Miles Garth is in many ways a desirable guest. And when he accompanies handsome 60-year-old Mark Palmer to Genevieve and Eric Lee's annual "alternative" dinner party in Greenwich, it is assumed Miles is the older man's new lover. He is not, and has in fact just met Mark at a theater performance. Halfway through the meal, Miles heads upstairs ostensibly to use the bathroom, and does not come back down.Â Sequestered in the Lees' extra room, he offers no explanation but does pass a note requesting vegetarian meals be sent under the door. At a loss over what to do, Genevieve tracks down Anna Hardie, a Scottish woman who met Miles briefly when they were teenagers. As Anna recalls his kindness to her during a school trip, she begins to come to terms with her own past and uncertain future. Miles has that affect on people. Anna also befriends Brooke, a precocious, lonely 9-year-old neighbor girl who met Miles at the party as well. Meanwhile, news of Miles' weird sit-in ripples throughout the community, and people begin to think of him as some kind of folk hero with almost mystical powers. That Miles is both more and less than he appears to be is part of the fun in this witty, deconstructed mystery. With its shifting points of view, Smith (The First Person: and Other Stories, 2009, etc.) displays a virtuoso gift for channeling her character's inner voices. Happily, the book manages to wear its profundity lightly.
Offbeat exploration of the human need to connect with others.
No, that's not a typo; it's the sort of title you would expect from brilliantly quirky Whitbread Award winner Smith. As is the premise: a friend of a friend brings a stranger to a dinner party as his guest. Halfway through the meal, the guest locks himself in a room and won't leave. Ever. Just imagine the sense of despair and fatedness. Ambitious readers will definitely want to try.[Page 70]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Like several recent novels, notably Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge, and Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists, this work is a collection of interlocking stories organized around a single theme and featuring multiple characters. Here the tales swirl around an unusual event at an upscale dinner party in Greenwich, England, where guest Miles Garth disappears into an upstairs bedroom at the home of his hosts and refuses to come out for weeks. Smith, whose eight previous works of fiction include the Whitbread Award-winning The Accidental, deftly satirizes our media-saturated environment, using an oddball cast of characters to point out the difficulty we have in making genuine human connections and demonstrating how beautiful and rare it is when we actually succeed. The passage of time is a constant underlying preoccupation as well, as befits the setting--home of the Royal Observatory, which established Greenwich Mean Time. VERDICT Though some of the plot points strain credulity, when read as a fable, this is a delightful, beautifully written, touching novel that will strongly appeal to lovers of language and wordplay. [See Prepub Alert, 3/21/11.]--Lauren Gilbert, Cold Spring Harbor Lib. & Environmental Ctr., NY[Page 88]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This startling lark from Smith (The Accidental) is so much more than the sum of its parts. Both breezy and devastating, the novel radiates from a whimsical center: Miles Garth, a dinner party guest, decides to leave the world behind and lock himself in his hostess's spare room, refusing to come out and communicating only by note. Four charmers with only tenuous links to Miles, nicknamed Milo by the growing crowd camped outside the suburban Greenwich, London house, narrate the proceedings: Anna, a girl who knew Miles briefly in the past; Mark, a melancholy gay man who Miles met watching Shakespeare at the Old Vic; May Young, an elderly woman who Miles helped grieve her daughter's death; and the wonderful, "preternaturally articulate" Brooke, arguably the cleverest 10-year-old in contemporary literature. Together they create a portrait not so much of Miles--because none of them really knows him--but of the zeitgeist of their society. In a lovely departure, and in spite of the fact that there is not one ordinary, carefree character in this whole tale, all parents are literate, loving, and tolerant: though Mark is exhausted and sad, his famous mum speaks to him, in verse no less, from beyond the grave; though May is trapped by dementia, she was a kind mother to her ill-fated daughter; and though Brooke is clearly plagued by attention deficit disorder and is misunderstood and disliked at school, her parents love her dearly. This fine, unusual novel is sweet and melancholy, indulgent of language and of the fragile oddballs who so relish in it. (Sept.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC