17 September 2017

Thoughts on Book Reviews

When I next (next?) launch a novel it will not be during the summer months. Sales are slow, and reviews even slower. Authors shouldn't care about reader reviews -  in fact I know authors who refuse to check theirs - but there is no denying that it is often the only feedback we authors receive. There is also no denying that reviews offer a peg from which to hang a bit of promotion.

And then amid the drought a little rain does gently fall. Into my Inbox came the following. Why not on a retailer site? This reader doesn't do reviews but use what you like. So I am. It is so cheering when a reader not only "gets it" but gets it enough to say so.

"...I couldn’t put it down! The plots that parallel Nick’s are sharply focused, and like all such “sub” plots the potential for stand free novels is obvious. What is also obvious is your deft, consistent (across the whole trilogy) ability to use “slight” material which generates a powerful presence for your reader: from a long list I’ll just choose material associated with medieval Ernald—Eco’s Name of the Rose Brother William of Baskerville meets Chaucer’s Friar!— it’s not just those blisters… the pairing him with the more world-weary reeve brings out the subtle difference in the character; we believe in him; he believes in the potential for good in his fellow human beings: his integrity is sustained. A glance, a phrase, a touch, all go towards his presence as a character, building by increments gradually. Understatement can often be more compellingly authentic than pages of description.
      I could never see Nick returning to the south… his home was always with Alice. I liked how you made the echo from The Bull At The Gate: the desecration of the Temple of Luna by the Christ men is paralleled by the desecration of the Pool by the opportunistic stealing of the water, and the fracking operation. And how fitting that in its new status the Pool will have a symbolic Keeper.
      The trilogy works powerfully at so many levels, all bound up with history’s continuity. So, thank you for the trilogy; I enjoyed it very much, and, of course, look forward to the next..."

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So yes, it gladdens my heart that the 'craft' has been noticed and appreciated for what it offered to the story. Most readers who do make the effort to leave a review concentrate on summarising the blurb and saying whether or not they enjoyed the read. To an extent, I've been guilty of this myself, though I do try to offer more. Writing a review for a novel, or a non-fiction book, is akin to viewing a piece of embroidery from a distance and giving a yea or nay opinion. Perhaps we should all step a little closer to appreciate the stitching and the subtlety of the colour combinations.

Now then, about that next....

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