Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How Much is Too Much?

I just read a review of LIFE AFTER LIFE (Atkinson) in the London Review of Books. There was not a single plot point, this reviewer did not discuss. There was no reason to read the book after this unless you wanted to read it for its style. Why do reviewers do this? Going through the plot page by page doesn't take much ability. Does it drive you crazy? Do you read reviews at all?






California-I am coming back to you soon. (Well, in January at least)


17 comments:

Lesa said...

I do read reviews, but, like you, if the review has too much, I don't bother with the book. And, if I know in advance I'm going to read a book, by a favorite author, for example, I don't read reviews until after I've read the book. I hate spoilers, and I don't want the book spoiled for me.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100%. I know I tend to go in the other direction but when I learned to do books reviews I found that less was more. Give a little of the plot but basically tell what kind of book it is, etc.

To this day when I read reviews that are several paragraphs of plot information I tend to skip right over the review.

After reading the Atkinson I have to wonder: how long was this review because there are a lot of plot twists!


Jeff M.

F.T. Bradley said...

I like reviews that are short--a few sentences--just enough to tell me if I should read the book or not.

This sounds like grandstanding on the reviewer's part...

Charles Gramlich said...

I suppose there's a place for such reviews but I don't want to read them. I like to hear about the writing style, the high points of the story, that sort of thing.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It was a hugely long review as theirs often are.
Lesa-how are you? It's been a long, long time.
Literary reviews such as LRB, TLS and NYRB don't often review the sort of novels where the plot matters much, I think. And since they require such long reviews, I guess she had nothing much to say but to go over the story.

Joe Barone said...

Journalists have been taught to put the whole story in the lead, then to expand, and then expand again. That shows a practicality. Most people read only the first part.

I prefer short reviews without spoilers. When I write about a book, I try not to include spoilers. A few times I may have blown it, but to me, the best rule is: Write fairly brief reviews which give a clear sense of the story. But be sure your review is not so specific as to rob the reader of the joy the story.

pattinase (abbott) said...

And I hope I do that with film reviews too. Very hard in many cases not to tell too much. Especially in stories with a lot of plot and not much else.

Anonymous said...

I'm taking the opposite position: as long as major plot twists aren't given away, I don't mind long reviews, especially if the author's other books are also discussed or books with simar themes. For instance, in a review of Peter Heller's The Dog Stars ( post-apocalyptic novel of humanity being wiped out by a virus), I found a reference to David Quammen's Spillover, a nonfiction work about how and why viruses move from animals to humans. I read both books and found that one increased my enjoyment if the other--but I would never have looked at Spillover if I hadn't read about it in another review.

Deb

Anonymous said...

But I think that's a totally different animal than just recounting the plot, Deb. By discussing other books it is definitely different.


Jeff M.

Gerard said...

I read reviews in LIBRARY JOURNAL and BOOKLIST. Those reviews are always brief.

Anonymous said...

What I mean is, I don't object to long reviews or even a review that talks about key plot points (but don't give away any twists!). I like to get the flavor of a book before diving in. I guess I'd liken it to drilling a pilot hole before hammering in a large nail--I like the review to give me some idea of what I'm in store for and a simple "liked it/didn't like it" usually isn't enough.

Deb

pattinase (abbott) said...

I don't mind a long review as long as it is about something other than plot points. I like the reviewer to mention other novels by the author or similar novels by other authors. I review essay can be a pleasure to read.

Dana King said...

This is why I rarely read reviews anymore. Too many aren't reviews; they're book reports. I include only as much of the plot to give the reader an idea of what she's getting into, never more than what's on the jacket or promotional material. After that, I only discuss writing, characters, plot plausibility, dialog, etc., with the end of hoping to provide the reader with enough information to decide whether to spend their time and money on this book.

Erik Donald France said...

I tend to read reviews frquently, but all with grains of sea salt. This is because I write some myself -- wicked ~!


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I'm with the short reviews lobby here. Even a thread will do. I read reviews of books on literary websites and blogs.

Cap'n Bob said...

Years ago I participated in a "Reviewed to Death" feature in Deadly Pleasures magazine. A bunch of people reviewed the same book. In the book, the end of part one had a man killing himslef. It came as a complete surprise to me and was the highlight of the book (the only highlight, in fact). Over half the reviewers blithely revealed this moment, including those who should have known better. I was aghast.

pattinase (abbott) said...

That's awful.