Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither

sara baumeI’ve just finished reading Sara Baume’s award-winning Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither. I thought it was a fantastic creation, a hugely impressive  piece considering that it breaks many of the rules of storytelling. Very little happens. There’s a scant amount of dialogue (if any?). The main character – the narrator – isn’t hugely likeable… And yet, it really works –  what a great achievement.

As it is such an unusual book I was prompted to read the reviews on Amazon (with my writer’s hat on) to see what others made of it.

Predictably, for over three-quarters of reviewers, it was a four or five star read. Many said that they thought it was one of the best things they’d ever read: “poignant and thought-provoking”, “quietly brilliant”, “unbelievably moving” – you get the drift.

Unsurprisingly, some didn’t rate it so highly – but it’s easy to see that it wouldn’t necessarily be everyone’s cup of char.

But one review really amused me, from one of those people who not only will tell you that they don’t like your work, but exactly where you, in your naive stupidity, have gone wrong: “…this book is flawed. It’s a shame that the reviews it has gathered (here and in national newspapers) have been so lacking in critical analysis. It’s not good for a young author to be left unaware of the ways in which her work could improve…” 

I wonder if this reviewer marks exam papers as her day job?


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