To Review or Not To Review

An acquaintance of mine says he doesn’t review books that he has not enjoyed reading. I thought his approach was a cop-out; surely if you don’t enjoy a book you should take the opportunity to tell readers why you didn’t. That was my opinion as I sat on my high horse.

Recently I undertook to review two books for a local publication and I chose two local novels in a genre that I don’t write in, but I enjoy reading. I looked forward to the experience and settled down with the first novel; it had such an appealing cover that I was convinced I was in for a thrilling read.

First my enthusiasm was unseated when I became aware that the author had forgotten two major areas in writing: research and grammar. And then I became completely unsaddled when I realised that the author was on a journey of discovery in Writers’ Craft Alley. If a writer wants to experiment in a genre then they should join a (good) writers group and experiment there. Why should the reader cough up a couple of hundred bucks for the writer’s indulgent journey? I was furious.

I scrabbled around in the grass for a bit, cursing the writer who had thrown me. I swatted my way through the long grass, unsure of how I wanted to respond to the situation I found myself in. By nature I am not a fence-sitter, but I know that there’s a reason why everyone in the publishing industry walks on tip-toes. It’s because egos are fragile and if you want to work in the industry then you’ve got to be politically correct. Well I say to hell with p.c.-ness, being p.c. is censorship in another guise. I didn’t risk detention in the eighties to stand down for a bad writer with a big ego. Hell no!

I climbed right back on my high horse and settled myself into the seat, galloped into the review-writing and with a defiant click of my spurs, propelled the completed review into cyber-space hurtling to the publisher’s inbox.

I haven’t heard a word from him; he’ll publish it or he won’t. Do I care? Not really. I’m pleased that I didn’t canter down the easy road and offer a weak apology as to why I didn’t write the review. It’s easy to turn away from a brackish waterhole; it’s much less comfortable to feel the discomfort and respond to it. Why should all the reviews we read in women’s magazines be glowing, when in actual fact some of the books are crap? How can we hope to nurture a discerning readership if we tell them what they’re reading is good when it’s not?

Either I’ll be posting a link to the review next month, or I won’t – watch this space.

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