was once a man who, one night between the main course and the sweet at a dinner party, went upstairs and locked himself in one of the bedrooms of the house of the people who were giving the dinner party.
There was once a woman who had met this man thirty years before, had known him slightly for roughly two weeks, in the middle of a summer when they were both seventeen, and hadn't seen him since, though they'd occasionally, for a few years after, exchanged Christmas cards, that kind of thing.
Right now the woman, whose name was Anna, was standing outside the locked bedroom door behind which the man, whose name was Miles, theoretically was. She had her arm raised and her hand ready to--to what? Tap? Knock discretely? This beautiful, perfectly done-out, perfectly dulled house would not stand for noise; every creak was an affront to it, and the woman who owned it, emanating disapproval, was just two feet behind her. But it was her fist she was standing there holding up, like a 1980s cliche of a revolutionary, ready to, well, nothing quiet. Batter. Beat. Pound. Rain blows.
So begins a truly delightful book. The premise is a little zany, with a guest locking himself in a spare room during a party, and the plot unfolding in response. Smith takes this far-fetched premise and weaves a delightful story of the connections between people, tangential as they may be, and the differences they can make in people's lives. In the process, the reader also gets social commentary, history, a little information about science and the arts, quick, intelligent dialogue, and one of the most enjoyable child characters I've read in awhile. This was the one addition to the 1001 List in this edition that I had never heard a thing about, and while I probably would have found it because I would have discovered the author on my various lists of award winners and short-listers, I am delighted to have read it sooner because of the inclusion in the 1001 List. I will be reading more of Ali Smith's work soon!