Imagine that this stranger goes upstairs halfway through the dinner party and locks himself in one of your bedrooms and won't come out.
Imagine you can't move him for days, weeks, months. If ever.
This is what Miles does, in a chi-chi house in the historic borough of Greenwich, in the year 2009-2010. So who is Miles, then? And what does it mean, exactly, to live with other people?
THERE BUT FOR THE: each of these words in the title – tiny monosyllabic words – mean so little and yet mean it all, and when they're put together, add up to something between cliche and grace (which is a pretty good way of describing what it's like to be alive). Each chapter in THERE BUT FOR THE focuses on one of these words, and at the same time on someone who knows Miles only slightly, tangentially, until the book comes together from disparate perspectives, in a crucially communal expression of identity.
Ali Smith's dazzling new novel is a funny, moving book about time, memory, thought, presence, quietness in a noisy time, and the importance of hearing ourselves think.