Saturday, October 27, 2007


On one of my Yahoo group lists, there are posts at the moment discussing what you can do about awful reviews, apart from jump off a cliff. Some people have suggested extracting one sentence (the most positive one, even if you have to take it out of context) and using it on your website. As in "While the beginning of this novel was heart-stopping, the rest of it put me into a coma" - you take out the "this novel was heart-stopping" and discard the rest.

Another tactic was to make the reviewer a character in your next book and kill him/her off. It's easy to understand why famous writers who get dozens of reviews simply stop reading them. It can become a form of self-torture. Reviewers have all sorts of agendas, hidden and open. Sometimes an editor will select a reviewer because they are known to have differing views on a topic (especially any kind of political book). It might be that in the past, the reviewer has been slighted or insulted in some way by the author, so it's revenge time.

The hardest thing is not to respond. Occasionally people do, especially when a review is patently unfair or biased, or just plain wrong in its assertions. But I've been in the position of being reviewed by someone I'd got on the wrong side of in the past, and when I saw that person's name on the review, my heart plummeted. With good reason. Friends commiserated with me, but to complain would have made me look petty. You have to take it on the chin, and move on.

In this morning's newspapers, there are two reviews of Alice Sebold's new novel The Almost Moon. You would think the reviewers had read two different books. One reviewer called it the worst second novel she'd ever read. She also said "this story is one hell of a sorry mess". Ouch! The other reviewer liked it. She didn't rave over it (so reading between the lines, you could think maybe it wasn't as good as she'd hoped) but she did say "a powerful study in the sadder, madder forms of love". After The Lovely Bones, I imagine any novel Sebold published next was going to suffer in comparison. Let's hope she ignores the reviews - by now she's probably half-way through her next novel, and just as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have just finished Alice Sebold's memoir Lucky. Having read that I don't imagine that Alice would be able to write a story where violence didn't feature.