Saturday 20 August 2011

Book reviews

I never fail to be surprised at the books the papers choose to review, especially when there is so little space allowed for book reviews. In today's Times, there's a review of a thousand-page first novel (first published nearly a year ago), reviewed by someone who really didn't enjoy it.

This poses several questions:

1.Why this particular first novel?
2.Why (when there are so many to choose from) pick such a long one, when reviewers are (presumably) pressed for time?
3.Why wait a year to review it?
4.Why publish a bad review at all? I can understand if it had been a novel by a well-known author; but a writer no-one's heard of? I would be thoughtful about starting on any novel of this length; I certainly wouldn't risk it after this particular review (it also has one two-star review on Amazon).

Do I have a personal axe to grind? Moi? I'm surprised it even entered your mind.


  1. Good questions!! I like focusing on getting online reviews now instead of media reviews, for all these reasons.

  2. I think you could be right about 'personal axe'. There seems to have been something going on behind the scenes, or why should that book have been picked, as you pointed out? Very odd! Maybe the author is a friend of someone else on the paper and the reviewer did NOT want to wade through 1000 pages! I feel sorry for the author, though. The book might have been really good - but what publisher takes a chance on such a long first book?

  3. Maybe it took the reviewer a year to wade through it? Seems a waste of time for them to continue reading the whole thing and then go to the trouble of reviewing it if they didn't enjoy it - wouldn't it have been better all round if they'd given up early on?

  4. Karen, you may be right. But it seems to be the newspaper reviews that are printed on the backs of books...

    Hydra, I agree. But I suppose having waded through all that, the reviewer had to write something!

    Hi, Patsy. Yes - they should have given up on it and reviewed somthing else. A negative review of a very long novel helps no-one!

  5. Yeah, rather a mystery. Perhaps the editor is in love with the author so was determined to get the review in, but couldn't very well refuse to publish the review when it turned out to be lousy

  6. Jenny, you may be right. The author is rather good-loking...

  7. Book reviewers seem to be a law unto themselves - but I'd definitely rather read about a book the writer enjoyed.

  8. Whether someone enjoys a particular book or not depends on so many factors that it is hard to get the same opinion about the same book from two different people - and sometimes, re-reading the same book years later, with added life experience and in a different mood, we enjoy one we didn't like before, or we wonder why we enjoyed it so much the first time round.
    Therefore, reviews are always very much subject to personal feelings and should not be taken too seriously. When I want to read a book, I will read it - no matter how lousy the reviews are. And on the other hand, a book can get as much hype in the media as it wants and I still won't read it if I am not interested in the subject.

  9. I know exactly the review you're talking about! I saw it too.

  10. Rosemary, I quite agree.

    Librarian, I take your point absolutely. However, one of the reasons I (and probably many others?) read reviews is to see what's out there and what they're like (granted that a review is only one person's opipnion), because, like everyone else, I'm aware that there are far more books than there is time to read them. So a book that long and with that poor a review...I can't say it tempts me!

    Fran, are you going to read it??