Girl Meets Boy - Ali Smith

Summary from Amazon:
"Girl Meets Boy" - It's a story as old as time. But what happens when an old story meets a brand new set of circumstances? Ali Smith's re-mix of Ovid's most joyful metamorphosis is a story about the kind of fluidity that can't be bottled and sold. It is about girls and boys, girls and girls, love and transformation, a story of puns and doubles, reversals and revelations. Funny and fresh, poetic and political, "Girl Meets Boy" is a myth of metamorphosis for the modern world.


There are things in life which I can never truly explain. They can be fundamental to my essence as a person, or a mere whim, but I can never find the right words to explain exactly why that is. Being a reader is one of these things. I love reading. A large part of my time is spent reading, or talking about reading and even thinking about reading. That's just what I do. Other readers understand (we even have a secret handshake and everything), but to non-readers or occasional readers, I find it hard to put into words what reading does to me, why I do it so much and why that's what I do when I could easily spend time watching cricket or becoming an astronaut. 

After finishing Girl Meets Boy, my first thought was - "THAT'S why I read". That's it. There hasn't been a better example than the 180 pages of this book to remind me why I am a reader. The story is rich, unpredictable, deep, funny. The characters are quite simply mesmerizing, whether they're too involved in their routines or projecting ideas to the universe. And the writing is just exquisite. An elaborate dish you're both eager and almost too afraid to start eating for fear of never being able to experience that first impression again

I'm going borderline lyrical on this (fine, I've reached and passed that border) because I just fell in love with the book. Which is appropriate because this book is about love. And not just any kind of love. That incredible feeling you have when you fall in love for the first time. When you feel yourself falling and falling and falling into immense all-encompassing emotions you never thought your heart could hold. This book has some of the most beautifully written love scenes I have ever read.

Set in Inverness, the book is told from the point of view of two very different sisters, Anthea and Imogen. When Anthea is wild, spiritual and clever, Imogen (Midge) is serious, unobtrusive and very eager to please and succeed. Midge works at a bottled water company, Pure, and wants to evolve in her role despite being surrounded by sexist men. There is only one person she likes, Paul, but she fears he might be gay. Midge manages to get Anthea a work experience position at the same place, but Anthea doesn't really care much about her career or the company. One day, everyone in the company witnesses an eco-warrior trespassing and writing something against Pure on a wall.  Everyone is appalled except Anthea. She immediately falls for Robin, the girl who painted the wall (and who she happens to mistake for a boy at first). After falling for Robin, Anthea questions her sexuality and her identity. After this happens, Midge can't stop thinking about the consequences of her sister being gay.

The political ideas behind the characters' stories bring more depth to the book and make it very inspiring to read. I loved the idea that every little thing can have a bigger impact in the end. There are also quite a few statistics about gender inequalities which are just shocking and almost make you want to grab a paintbrush too. 

The book is an interpretation of the story of Iphis, in Ovid's Metamorphosis. The girl who was brought up as a boy to prevent her father's wrath and who appeals to the gods on the day of her wedding to be changed into a boy so that she can make her future wife happy. The story of Robin and Anthea is wonderfully told from the point of view of the two sisters. I loved reading the passages in Midge's point of view, seeing all the doubts in her head, as well as her beliefs. Her transformation was one of the most interesting things in the book. 

I'm going to stop now, because I could go on for hours. But do read this book for the sheer beauty of its writing and for the journey. 
Here are some quotes I'd like to share:

Robin telling Anthea about Iphis:
"The thing is, Iphis and Ianthe had actually, for real, very really, fallen in love.
Did their hearts hurt? I said. Did they think they were underwater all the time? Did they feel scoured by light? Did they wander about not knowing what to do with themselves?"

Anthea about Robin's smile:
"Then I saw her smile so close to my eyes that there was nothing to see but the smile, and the thought came into my head that I'd never been inside a smile before, who'd have thought being inside a smile would be so ancient and so modern both at once?"

Paul and Imogen's thinking:
"I feel met by you, he says afterwards. It's weird.
(That's exactly what it feels like. I felt met by him the first time I saw him. I felt met by him all the times we weren't even able to meet each other's eyes.)"


Also, Nymeth has posted a lovely review of this book on her blog Things Mean A Lot with some other quotes (here)

Girl Meets Boy, by Ali Smith | 2007 | Canongate | I read the ebook version