ALI SMITH's works of fiction include the novel Hotel World, which was short-listed for both the Orange Prize and the Booker Prize and won the Encore Award and the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award, and The Accidental, which won the Whitbread Award and was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction. Her story collections include Free Love, which won a Saltire Society First Book of the Year Award and a Scottish Arts Council Award, The Whole Story and Other Stories, and How to be Both, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction in 2015. Born in Inverness, Scotland, Smith lives in Cambridge, England.
In Ovid's myth about Iphis, the title, female character is raised as a boy, falls in love with another girl, and then is transformed into a man the night before her wedding to her beloved, Ianthe. Whitbread Award winner Smith (The Accidental) retells Ovid's story using modern-day Scotland as a backdrop and substituting socially rebellious Anthea and Robin in the roles of Ianthe and Iphis. With her sister Imogen's help, Anthea gets a job at Pure, a company that sells bottled water. During a staff meeting intended to solicit marketing ideas, there is a disturbance outside: Robin, a girl dressed in boy's clothing, is defacing the Pure sign with a spray-painted message about the immorality of selling water. One look at Robin, and Anthea is in love. She leaves her new job to join forces with Robin in tagging public buildings with provocative social statements. The real metamorphosis, however, comes with Imogen, who starts out a rigid anorexic and ends up embracing a freer existence. Part of "The Myths" series, wherein writers retell classical stories, Smith's small novel imaginatively touches on big subjects of political and social importance. Recommended, especially for collections with other novels in the series.-Joy Humphrey, Pepperdine Law Lib., Malibu, CA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Veteran British novelist Smith returns from 2006's Whitbread Award-winner The Accidental with a cheerful, sexy, disorienting take on the gender-shifting myths of Iphis (as told in Ovid's Metamorphoses). Fragile, rootless Anthea arrives at the Inverness, Scotland, offices of the slick, multibrand corporate behemoth Pure, where her up-and-coming sister Midge has gotten her a job. Raised on their grandfather's strange stories of rebellion and gender switching, the sisters undergo very different transformations when confronting "Pure oblivion," the corporation's goal of being simultaneously ubiquitous and invisible. Drifting at work, Anthea meets kilt-clad graffiti artist Robin, who awakens destructive passions within her. Midge, meanwhile, is summoned to Pure's London headquarters by Keith, the charismatic "boss of bosses," and her meeting with him sets her on an unexpected course with the company. Smith's spare and sharp lyricism makes the action secondary, but the ironies that arise from the corporate setting for a very old myth are handled with glee (including jabs at water supply privatization), and Smith's cadences, which read like classical drama, carry the novel along beautifully. (Jan.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.