So I’m half-way through Jonathan Grimwood’s The Last Banquet. It’s fluff, dressed up in a pre-revolutionary French costume. I’m loving it.
And then I read a particular review (which I will not name*). The review is jam-packed with spoilers. In fact, the ‘review’ is essentially a retelling of the entire book with a few flimsy thoughts on style tacked on the end. It is a supremely lazy review and I’m cross with myself for having read it. But it did get me thinking – what do I want in a book review?
As far as the plot goes, I only need to know what’s in the book blurb – after all, blurbs are usually carefully crafted to tell readers enough information to interest them but not enough to give the story away. Sure, reword the blurb in your review but don’t go much beyond that, because that is called a spoiler.
What I really want are some insights – what elements of the book you enjoyed or alternatively, what you didn’t like. I want comparisons to other authors, books, films or whatevers – if someone tells me a book is similar to anything by John Irving, I’m going to read it. Equally, if they tell me it filled their minds-eye like their favourite Hockney painting (for future reference, mine is Mount Fuji and Flowers), that’s also good. To this end, a few choice quotes from the book don’t go astray – give me a feel for the style.
If a book makes you feel as happy as a spring lamb, tell me. Because I want to feel as happy as a spring lamb too.
If a book made you feel uncomfortable, depressed or you just didn’t like it, tell me, tell me why. Check out this review of Sisterland for its brilliant, but nonetheless negative take on Sittenfeld’s latest – how good is that review?! It tells you so much about the book but not about the story. Even Sittenfeld loved it.
So, did I put the cranky-pants on this morning? Am I over-reacting because one careless reviewer spoiled my fun? What do you want in a review? What’s your position on spoilers?
*It’s not fair to pick on this particular review when there are loads of reviews with spoilers published constantly. But today, I snapped.