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Can You Review A novel In One Word? Or Five?

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic asks for one word reviews for the last ten books I read. I gave it a go but it proved a fatuous exercise.

Without context, the single words had little meaning. To say a book is “entrancing” for example, doesn’t explain what makes it so — is it the setting or the characters? If I say another book is “long” is that necessarily a criticism? It might be long and dull, or long and fascinating. Again, without further explanation the word is senseless.

Single word descriptors don’t convey anything that would help a prospective reader understand what to expect. Nor do they differentiate one book from thousands of others.

So I’ve taken a different tack. I imagined being asked to describe some of my recent reads in as few words as possible. It’s a little like the Elevator Speech exercise which is used to get people to learn how to succinctly convey a message.

Five was as low as I could go without losing all meaning.

I’m not convinced the results would be particularly insightful for other potential readers but, if nothing else, this exercise demonstrated that it’s much harder to write succinctly than it is to write at length.

Here are my ten titles in chronological order, backwards from the most recently finished. Hyperlinks take you to my reviews (as you can tell, I am way behind with these).

His Excellency Eugene Rougon by Émile Zola

Hunger for power. Political corruption.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St John Mandel

Fragility of life. Financial fraud.

She Who Was No More  by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac

Cherchez la femme. Love deceived.

Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler

Misfit misses out on life 

Heaven by Meiko Kawakami 

Odd friendship born from adversity.

The Last Chronicles of Barset by Anthony Trollope

Clergyman falls on his dignity.

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan 

Moral courage confronts church’s callousness.

Sacred Country by Rose Tremain

Hidden desires of life’s outsiders.

The Long Dry by Cynan Jones 

Marriage withers amid unspoken pain

You by Phil Whitaker 

Innocent victims of marital breakdown  

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules and the list of topics visit the Top Ten Tuesday page on her blog.

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