Maria is a woman who is drifting through life. Things happen to her, but she has little drive in what happens. We follow her life for fifteen years, starting just before she starts university.
I found The Accidental Woman a little awkward. It’s Coe’s first novel and bares little resemblance to his others. The style of writing is different, and although it is interesting in its difference it also feels a bit like it was used to spread out a story where nothing much really happens.
Coe himself is the narrator, he tells Maria’s story as an author, referring to himself as such. At times this is somewhat amusing because he suggests that he might know how the reader is feeling, but then proceeds not to follow the thought pattern of the reader. In this way he ends up going off on tangents, saying he will tell us about something, then taking a chapter to talk about something else. It is this that makes it seem like a device to spread out the story, but it also makes the reader feel a little like Maria- powerless.
Maria was unlikeable. She seemed so unconnected to her own life, things happened to her and she just let them happen. She would want things but never go for them. She liked to think of herself as somewhat of a loner, but she had friends who she didn’t make any effort with, or any effort to keep, even when she liked them (which was rare).
At a few points it did seem like there was going to be more of a plot, but those points were never explored (which I suppose is Maria’s way), and that was frustrating as a reader.
If you’ve read other novels by Coe you may like to explore the differences in his style by reading ‘The Accidental Woman’, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as your first Coe- maybe ‘The Rotter’s Club’ instead