I’ve just published my first book review on Suite 101. I wrote most of it in one day, spent three agonising weeks polishing it up, then over two days I completely rewrote it. It’s been a tremendous struggle for many reasons.
The last time I wrote a book review I was in highschool. I knew that this time round, concluding my article with “I would give this book ten out of ten” wasn’t going to cut it. I spent some time reading book reviews in Mslexia, Private Eye and the London Review of Books, to try to get a feel for how it’s done.
Despite this preparation, before the complete rewrite my article read more like a discursive essay than a review. I found it quite difficult to write about my personal response to the book because in the back of my mind a little voice was asking “are you qualified to do this?” I had to keep reminding myself that my opinion is just as valid as anybody else’s.
The worry remains that a writer would be hurt or angered by my opinion. I have the utmost respect for writers and I would would never want to do anything to damage a writer’s reputation or book sales. Luckily I have it on good authority that reviews don’t make an impact on sales. A good review might make an author’s name a little more memorable, a bad review will do the same. I once read an absolutely scathing review of a Michale Ondaatje book which just made me want to read it more.
While it’s a relief to know that I’m never going to be responsible for making or breaking someone’s career, it does raise the question, why bother to write book reviews at all? How about because reading is fun, talking about books is incredibly stimulating and recommending a book you’ve enjoyed is a very satisfying thing to do.
If you’re going to dish it out, you’ve got to be prepared to take it. I’m very very open to feedback and constructive criticism so if you want to read my review of The Owl Killers and give me some tips for improvement, I would be eternally grateful.