Monday 13 March 2017

The Few That I Don’t Review…

When people from my ‘other life’ find out I am a book reviewer they very often ask what I do if I get sent a book for review and don’t like the book. It is a good question, if a little negative, but it has to be considered.

Not every book is enjoyed by everyone. We do not all read for the same purpose. We do not all seek the same satisfaction from our reading material. Any book has the capacity to inspire some and deter others.

I could easily name a handful of books written by established names that I was convinced, prior to reading them, that I would love them, but actually failed to connect with them in the way I thought I would. Similarly I could name a handful of books that at first glace at the cover or the blurb – I know, don’t judge, right? – I wasn’t convinced I would enjoy, that have turned out to be wonderful.

So what do I do with the few books from my reviewing hauls that I just cannot get into?

Answer: I do nothing. If I can’t finish a book, or if I finish a book but just did not feel inspired, excited, or connected enough to it to write a review, then I don’t write one.

This answer has shocked people. They have been shocked that I put out no review rather than putting out a negative review. They wonder why I do not publish a review explaining what I thought didn’t work about it and why.

But that is the point. Just because it didn’t work for me, does not mean it won’t work for other readers. It is all subjective. We are all very, very different. Yes we are.

I read a book recently and struggled. It appealed to me initially because the cover endorsement was by one of my all time favourite authors. The cover art was attractive and the story sounded like a lovely piece of escapism. So I should have loved it, but in the reading I struggled. I struggled to connect with the narrator right from the start. I struggled to see where the story was going or what kind of story it was. I struggled to read on, even though there were some strong images and a lyrical, historical, magic feel to the whole thing. I struggled to the end and I started to write a review. Then I stopped. For some reason this book just wasn’t speaking to me. I don’t know why. Even now when I see other people's praise of it, I am not sure exactly why. It just did not work that way for me.

In every review I write, I begin with a summary of the who’s, how's, what's, why’s, or where’s of the book, to give the reader a taste of what they may find within it. I find this part usually flows really easily but for this particular review I didn’t make it past a paragraph. The words just would not come. I closed the document and resigned myself to this being one of the few that I don’t review.

I won’t tell the world what I didn’t like about this book. I won’t tell the world what other people might not like about this book. Because what good is a negative review to anybody? Who does it benefit, really, if I taint your view of what a book may be, because of what it was to me? Do you really want to miss out on your next gem because – due to circumstance, personal taste or the mysteries of the universe – for me it just wasn’t a gem?

So that abandoned review, and the book it relates to, will linger in the archives, leaving its future readers guarded from my opinions. One day it may speak to me and be granted a second chance, but for now it is left in peace, intact and waiting discovery by those who may look upon it more favourably.

Elloise Hopkins.

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