|gratuitous pic of some of my favourite books|
It was a shock to find, with a growing sense of dismay, characters that were hideously caricatured, ridiculous plot lines and trite issues. The writing was woeful and I was reeling at the groan-out-loud badness of it all. There was a romantic liaison - it was cringe-worthy. I didn't know whether to laugh hysterically or cry hysterically. I was further horrified to discover this book was only the first in a planned series. How on earth to review such a story?
I did my best. I wasn't unduly harsh of the shortcomings. I agonised over the brief positives and tried to be objectively fair about what the book seemed to be trying to achieve. I couldn't in good conscience recommend the book to anyone, but I thought I gave enough information for the reader to make their own informed decision.
"Thank you for your review. Unfortunately it does not meet our criteria for publication, and we will not be in need of your services again."
The voice on the other end of the phone was measured and sure. I was a stumbling mess. "Set criteria? I tried to give an honest critique. Can you explain my shortcomings, so I can try again? (Seemed an ironic question to be asking, in the light of the obvious shortcomings of the book..pity the author hadn't asked anyone the same thing..)
"No, we found your review to be overly critical. It is not our practice to publish negative reviews."
Right. Okay then. Um, thanks.
I don't know about you, but when I read a review, I want honesty. I expect an objective opinion. I don't want a glorified press release that's been written by the author's mother (or more likely, the author). I want to know strengths and weaknesses and I expect fairness. Is this too much to ask?
If you're interested in the issue of reviews, and their role in the current literary environment - this is worth a look: http://www.booksellerandpublisher.com.au/DetailPage.aspx?type=featureitem&ID=24566
So it was with a sense of joyous surprise that I came across an example of christian fiction that ticked all my criteria for a great read (whether christian or not). The story flowed and the characters were well-rounded and believable. The social and personal issues were dealt with realistically, sensitively and well. There was pathos, warmth and humour in the writing.
The central character, Amy Gallagher, is a frustrated writer who struggles to find her place in the world. She deals with loss and love, friendship and pain. Her life currently seems characterised by rejection. Her Christianity is not a fix-it for her problems. Nor does it provide her with trite answers to the complexities of life. Yet she holds on to it. It is a solid base that anchors her. Her journey is not world-beating stuff, but it feels real. I know this description sounds NOTHING like my own life (hahahahahahahaha), but these characters, funnily enough, felt like people I knew.
The cover is gorgeous. Ill state the obvious, that covers don't reflect the quality of the writing. But this cover is so lovely I want to frame it and hang it on my wall. Maybe it's not a coincidence then that the author, Bethany Pierce is also an artist as well as a writer. (sigh, I'm trying to be happy for her, really I am...)
If you're looking for a good read this holiday, give it a try. I'd love to know what you think..
If you'd like a copy for FREE from me, make a comment - I'll let you know if it meets my criteria :-)