Good Evening, Bookworms!
As I hinted in recent blog entries, and with literary awards in the news of late, I wish to have a look at the whole matter of what attracts us to certain books. If you were reviewing a book or judging it as part of an awards panel, what would cause you to give a certain book your wholehearted backing? There are many book awards, particularly these days, not just the Man Booker Prize, and if you were reading a selection of books and having to choose one to award a prize to, what would help a book’s cause in your eyes? Some things to consider…
Do you love a book so much that you just can’t put it down?
If anything, such as work, gets in the way of you sitting down for a good read of this book, does that frustrate and infuriate you?
Do you think all your friends, family members, neighbours, colleagues, etc, really ought to read this book?
Are you going to feel rather sad when you actually finish reading this book?
If this is a work of fiction, have you really come to love or hate the central character(s) and care what happens to them in the plot?
Does it have a good opening line which grabs your attention and holds it?
Does the book flow? Is it readable?
Now, it is sound advice not to judge books by their covers, and nor should you judge them by the blurb on the back. I learned that the hard way when reading The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt for our Waterstone’s Deansgate book club not too long ago. The blurb sounded really promising to me, giving me the feeling I’d really love this book. Getting around to reading it, though, was a different matter. I have only partially read this book. Debatable as to whether I even managed a quarter of the book. I just didn’t think it flowed at all. I felt I was having to wade very slowly through a thick substance with this novel which I felt was overstuffed with an excessive number of characters introduced to the plot at the same time. I was unsure of whether some or all of them were meant to be main characters integral to the whole book or whether they were just peripheral party guests. A real shame as the blurb had promised so much and the cover of this book, with its jewelled dragonfly, is gorgeous!
It’s not even as though the length of the book was a problem, either. Sure, it was a chunky one, but I’ve read equally chunky novels and got all the way through them without too much trouble and with plenty of enjoyment! I’ve also had occasional troubles getting into shorter books, just because I felt I was plodding through them. Sentence phrasing is key – there’s a lot to be said for saying what you have to say, as an author, in a way that is easy and pleasant on the reading eye! Let’s have a comparison of the two Jane Austen novels I’ve ever read, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. Pride and Prejudice is a chunkier, longer book than Persuasion, but is far more readable! Write in an easy-to-read manner and, even if your novel is verging on War and Peace lengthwise, it will still be an enjoyable reading experience for most bookworms!
However, I do feel this disappointment with The Children’s Book is an exception and if I like the blurb, I also tend to like the book more often than not. Some books can be judged on their covers too, although that’s more the case with non-fiction, like the memoir of Nina Sankovitch, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, which features a large purple chair in front of bookshelves on its cover! A bit like they would say on the Ronseal commercials, it is the sort of book that “does exactly what it says on the tin”! This is a book about sitting down with a good book. With plenty of good books, in fact, as Nina gets through a book a day for a whole year!
Back to fiction now, and I am really hoping that the Booker Prize shortlisted Jamrach’s Menagerie lives up to my first impressions when I get around to reading it! After the lessons learned from my disappointment with The Children’s Book, I don’t want to be too hasty to judge a book on its blurb or its cover, but it DOES look promising on both accounts. And it’s shorter than the A S Byatt novel, so if I do end up plodding through it, at least there’s less to have to plod through! Plus, as I mentioned in my blog last night, the cover has these lovely shiny blue curly waves on it! Seriously – get thee to a bookshop and have a shufty! Most of the book’s cover is a kind of burgundy shade with silver stars on it and the title in embossed silver lettering, plus the silhouette of a many-masted tall ship, which is lifted up on the high seas by way of resting on top of some of these lovely shiny blue curly waves! Apparently, it was longlisted for the Orange Prize. Well, it’s now been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize! Whether it wins or not on 18th October, I think it should get a prize for its book cover! Is there an award in the offing for people who design book covers? If not, perhaps there ought to be one!
Now for the question of whether a book holds your attention or not. Does that book hook you in from the opening sentence? One of the books I really enjoyed reading for our book club was The Other Hand by Chris Cleave, which opens with Little Bee’s wish that she were a British pound coin rather than a Nigerian girl! A most unusual, quirky comment to start any book!
If we go back to the first two questions I asked, as both tend to go together, we have to look at books you just can’t put down! These are the occasions when you love a book so much you can’t stop reading it and, if you actually HAVE to stop reading it (for instance if you have to get on with your job), you find yourself feeling really frustrated, you can’t wait to be able to carry on reading and you resent anyone and anything that prevents you from doing so. I think the title of tonight’s blog entry sums this up perfectly. It’s thanks to Nick Hornby, via Nina Sankovitch and her purple chair! I had a couple of unputdownables on the book front earlier this year, not too many months ago in fact! Round about the same time, I enjoyed both The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor and The Radleys by Matt Haig and was getting a tad annoyed, to say the least, that my reading of these books was being interrupted by work! Grrr! Sometimes, as a bookworm, I think work should be defined as that annoying time when you’re awake but can’t read any good books!
Now I guess it’s time I got this finished off and published so you can read it! By the way, constructive comments are always welcome and if you have any ideas for future blog entries, such as books on a certain theme or subject, I’d be happy to read your suggestions! In the meantime, take care and Happy Reading!
Books mentioned in this blog entry:
- The Children’s Book – A.S. Byatt
- Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
- Persuasion – Jane Austen
- War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
- Tolstoy and the Purple Chair – Nina Sankovitch
- Jamrach’s Menagerie – Carol Birch
- The Other Hand – Chris Cleave
- The Anatomy of Ghosts – Andrew Taylor
- The Radleys – Matt Haig