I read somewhere that ‘readers never read the book the author writes’.
And to a certain extent this is true. Two readers will have a different experience whilst reading the same book. Each reader brings their own mix of likes and dislikes, expectations, experiences, imagination and so many other factors to the table. No reader is the same, so why should their reading experiences be?
Sometimes, though, when I read reviews I wonder whether we were reading the same book! As an example, I picked a book at random, one I read and enjoyed a while ago. I read it before looking at any reviews, not wanting to be influenced by what other people think, and wrote my own review before checking anyone else’s.
So, to the example – well-known book, well-known author. I checked out the one star and the five star reviews and tried to look for similarities of content (but obviously not opinion!). Here’s what I found
1* no real conclusion
5* brilliant ending
5* brilliantly disturbing
5* dark and bitter, like good chocolate
1* hackneyed storyline
5* original storyline
5* great twist
1* unlikeable characters
5* believable characters
1* talked about irrelevant rubbish
5* one of the best novels I’ve read in ages
1* I didn’t get it
5* kept me guessing
I think the moral of the story is – don’t be too influenced by reviews. What you might love, someone else is bound to hate, and vice versa. Though I will say at this point, that if the majority of a book’s rating are 1* and 2* then I might give it a miss on the premise that not everyone can be wrong.
Saying that though, there is a reverse side to this assumption – I was recently asked to review a novel, the blurb was good, the genre one I enjoy and was in the mood for. But I couldn’t even get half way through. To me it was clichéd, there were loads of typos and spelling errors (yes, I know, I’ve been guilty of those, too, but I put them right, and learned from my mistakes… I hope), repetitive words and phrases, stereotypical characters, and a weak storyline. I gave up, then checked out the reviews to see if it was just me. Looks like it was. The book had numerous reviews, hardly any of them less than 4*.
My conclusion? They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so are books!