Thoughts on reviewing books

Thoughts on the review process

Apparently, most journalists don’t even read the books they review, they skim, hope and write random sound bites about books. I have developed a knack for knowing when this is happening! Can tell it straight away!


But, guess what? I read all the books I review, I think deeply about them and I wake at night and toss and turn about the worry of offending and upsetting talented writers…I sometimes hold back in case i meet these writers and they hate me.

I have taken my time reading Paul O’ Reilly’s short story collection and after reading this, I have been thinking so much about why I like certain collections, styles and themes. i have also been bingeing on Wells Tower, Everything burned, everything ravaged and Madeleine D’arcy’ Waiting for the bullet and yesterday, Claire Keegan’s Antarctica!

What all this reading, thinking and tossing and turning has led me to conclude is that writers, obviously have unique voices and writing styles but I usually enjoy them all. The thing that will turn my head is the content, intended audience or the “turn” of the story.

Content-Irish short story writers tend to write about fairly typical things. Some male ones can verge towards sex, drinking and being drunk in the snow/old man’s pub, rock and roll, depression, mental health issues etc. Some female short writers like to write about affairs. Women having affairs with their sister’s husband or driving in a car with their husband and not connecting with them at all throughout the journey. Other favourite women’s content includes women getting pregnant when having sex for the first time and having the baby and giving it away.

I am stereotyping, somewhat, for effect and to make a point. But these sort of content issues have been covered again and again and I am sure Irish men and women have moved on from these types of reading contents.

affairsI love all sorts of writing styles and voices but in terms of content, for me to LOVE a collection, it has to quirk things up. Not a huge amount just don’t start the story with an affair, women’s curves and breasts…If it’s funny silly, brilliant. If it is bizarre as in I have never met a character like the one in the story, I am in! I also don’t like stories that are so experimental they make no sense at all in the world we live in. you know those ranty types, trying to be all “James Joyce” and “Ulysses”. Leave that to the genius, please. Gives me a headache.

So, when I make a good review, it usually down to my personal tastes in these things.

Phew. I can breathe now and perhaps, sleep tonight. My disclaimer is over. I feel much freer! I am hoping to use these categories to give more honest reviews and hoping no offence will be taken as I am sure there is a market for all those affairs, stolen kisses and pints of guinness out there!

What type of situations and people do you like to read about?


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