Grandma's Tales

May 20, 2007

Grammar – 35 How to write a book review 2 A novel way

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 10:11 pm

So you’ve read the book and have formed a general opinion. To your delight, you found that you enjoyed reading it. It had something that left you feeling happy, even fulfilled. “Hey, I need to put this on record! I want to share this with my friends!” Sure. And that was a novel? Here are a few tips.
Step 1, 2, 3, … Do not narrate the story. You enjoyed the novel because it had something fresh, something unexpected, something you hadn’t thought of, the “twists and turns” that kept you totally involved. Why should you play spoilsport? But you should tell (oops, show, not tell) the reader “what” you enjoyed. (There is no particular order in the following.)
Setting: Where is the story set? Where does it take place? Does this have any bearing on the novel? Does the setting make the story effective? From Shakespeare to John Grisham, writers have chosen their settings carefully. [vishesh, where is “An Equal Music” set? How important is it to the plot?] If you can, describe in a word or phrase, exactly what effect this particular setting has on the novel.
Theme: This, of course, is different from the plot. Is the theme social, pulp romance, light and fluffy, entertaining, psychological, futuristic? Is it familiar/traditional? Original? Sci-fi [Isaac Asimovish]? Unusual? Unique?
Are you happy with the way the theme is developed? At point is it revealed? What establishes the theme?
Plot: Is there a dominating, well-defined plot? Sometimes the characters dominate and the plot is pushed to Grade 2. It becomes secondary. If, after 5/6/7 pages, you’re wondering, “What is this book about? Is it going anywhere?” it’s time to dump it.
Can you detect a main plot and a couple of sub-plots? Do the sub-plots add to the story? Or do they distract? Do the sub-plots make the story more appealing? Do they provide comic relief?
Look at the elements of the plot – introduction, suspense, climax, conclusion. What can you say about each one of them?
(a) Introduction: Drama? Action? Mystery? Conflict? Emotion? [ “My suffering left me sad and gloomy”, “It was one of those September days when summer never seems to end (I think)”, “Down to the last day, even the last hour now”]
(b) Chapter-to-chapter development: How is the conflict developed? Does the plot rely too much on coincidences? How did the author keep your interest from flagging?
(c) Climax: Was it unexpected? In both time and content? Did you want to read on after that? Gripping?
(d) Conclusion: Would you say this was the best part? [“The novel has an unexpected ending. Just when you think it will never end, it does.”:-)] Was it necessary?
What about mystery and suspense? Were they logical? Engaging? Clear and non-confusing? Were you able to guess the suspects? (This is important. Readers must feel they have a chance, to be interested.)
Finally, the relationship between the plot and the characters. Does the plot support the delineation/building up of characters? In other words, is it strong enough and roomy enough for the characters to have flesh and blood, to look real?
And the most important part of the story. The conflict and the resolution. If the “build-up” is too long, the reader yawns, closes the book and switches off the light. Too short, the story looks choppy and abrupt. What you look for is a good balance. The descriptions should be short and crisp and there should be a hint of tension in the background. Unless you want to know what happened next, why would you turn the pages?
Let’s talk of characterisation and style in the next post.



  1. the book is set in london,the place seems to be the ideal setting for the book ,since the author find a lot of things which sends the main character back into his past and think of his life then and now.

    Comment by vishesh — May 21, 2007 @ 7:44 am | Reply

  2. ps:- i have written the full review in my blog do take a look.

    Comment by vishesh — May 21, 2007 @ 9:06 pm | Reply

  3. Excellent, vishesh! See how setting helps!

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — May 21, 2007 @ 9:06 pm | Reply

  4. Sure, I will.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — May 21, 2007 @ 9:08 pm | Reply

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