Ali Smith – Girl Meets Boy (3 stars)

Ali Smith

Myth adaptation

Ali Smith has a distinctive way with words, and while her writing may not be to everyone’s taste, it certainly makes for an absorbing read. Girl Meets Boy, the Inverness-born writer’s fourth novel, following her 2004 Whitbread award-winning work The Accidental, is the story of two very different sisters: free-thinking, likeable and rebellious Anthea and Imogen, a precious, conservative type who works in advertising. Based around the myth of Iphis – Ovid’s most joyful metamorphosis – the book makes much of the idea that myth can carry wider truths and be applied to a range of situations and characters, in both past and present time. Myth and the language of myth have the capacity to move and effect change, and this is the central theme of Smith’s latest effort.

However, while the author certainly has a magnificent ear for language – her poetic musings are at times beautiful and evocative – in this case it’s at the expense of a clearly defined plot. In addition, Girl Meets Boy’s characters are not as fully realised as in Smith’s past offerings, and when combined with the occasional cliché, such as one sister’s desire to quit the business world when she recognises its essential emptiness, this makes for a rather flimsy, frustrating tale. Humour and Smith’s spirited prose style are both redeeming features in this latest of Canongate’s Myth series, but be prepared: you may find yourself wanting more.