Like by Ali Smith - review by Louise Guinness

Louise Guinness

Life Without Men



Virago 352pp £14.99

There must have been rejoicing in the House of Virago when they got their hands on Ali Smith’s novel, as Like embraces many of the subjects they hold dear – Sapphic love, single parenthood, anti-Thatcher politics and Scottishness. It is the story of Dr Amy Shone, a brilliant scholar and Fellow of Cambridge University and Ash McCarthy, a Scottish wild child, who falls in love with her. Smith approaches the heart of her story with great caution, edging in stealthily, building up a picture of each girl’s childhood, using first Amy’s voice and then Ash’s. She begins at the end with a bleak presentation of the somewhat weird life that Amy now lives. She has a little girl, Kate, nearly eight (how Kate came to be is not explained, not worth mentioning probably, because it must have had something to do with a man), and they live in the Highlands, in a caravan on a site Amy is paid to caretake. Kate is an endearing child, imaginative and quirky and Smith expresses Kate ‘s hopes, fears and preoccupations with affection and an accuracy which only occasionally slips. Her mother makes up stories to entertain her daughter. I recognised one of

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