A continuation of the Forsyte Chronicles, I think I liked this one a little bit less than The Man of Property, but it was still enjoyable. I missed some of the characters from the previous book, but there was still plenty of drama to keep things interesting. I do wish there were more of Irene’s perspective, rather than treating her as a thing of beauty and not a whole person (which I think was one of Virginia Woolf’s criticisms of these books).
This series continues to be a bit of a guilty pleasure, as it’s a rather richly done — and engrossing — soap opera. The historical tidbits interspersed throughout make it more interesting and help make the time period more vivid.
Can Book Awards Poison Reader Reviews?
(From Pacific Standard, February 19, 2014)
“Two business researchers, Balázs Kovács and Amanda J. Sharkey, at the Universities of Lugano and Chicago, respectively, analyzed thousands of reader reviews on Goodreads of 64 English-language books that either won or were short-listed for top book awards — including the National Book Award, the Man Booker Prize, and the PEN/Faulkner Award — between 2007 and 2011. To their surprise, while sales of the books that won awards skyrocketed following recognition, the online ratings of these same books plummeted.”
The article goes on to explain that this may be due to having a wider audience — people with more varied tastes in books — reading a book, simply due to the award it received, rather than due to it fitting their own interests.
That seems to make sense, and I’ve definitely experienced this myself. I’ve read books based on an award they won, rather than just being interested in them, and I rarely ended up actually enjoying them. Though I think I have often attributed it more to judges awarding books for being edgy or show, rather than actually good. ;)
I’m a little skeptical of the researchers only having looked at Goodreads, since I’ve seen variations between reviews there and on other book community or bookselling sites. They did mention that Goodreads users are fairly representative of fiction readers in general, but the researchers also weeded out the ratings without a comment, and extrapolated other data that wasn’t explicit, so that can skew things even more. So take that for what it is.
Do We Really Need Negative Reviews?
(From New York Times, February 16, 2014)
From The New York Times, a written debate between Francine Prose and Zoë Heller about whether (professional) book reviewers should write negative reviews.
Having only positive book reviews seems rather silly to me. I think a negative review, written constructively, can be a good thing, both for writers and readers. Just because a book was actually published doesn’t guarantee that it’s well-written or even worth reading.
An interesting enough look at a slice of Hungarian life after the first World War, focusing on the effects of the class system on how people treat one another. The writing was a bit plodding and heavy-handed at times, and there were a number of mistakes missed in editing this translation. The major event late in the book was a total surprise to me. I expected something to happen, based on how the story was building, but this went well beyond what I imagined.