Today’s book review of a Quick Reads novella is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.
Review (of the paperback)
I have dozens of Quick Reads and love them because they are… um, quick reads. While they use simple language for emerging readers, they don’t patronise and while I’m walking the dog, cooking etc. they are – generally – and easy and enjoyable read.
As the title would suggest, this novella is split into rules, preceded by a short prologue, an extract from the ‘Daily News’ speculating about Laura and Dominic’s (Nick) forthcoming nuptials… or rather lack of anything in that direction.
The comparison the article makes to Nick’s estate and Downton Abbey feels very apt – it is open 364 days to the public and like millions across the globe, I am a fan of the TV series, despite history being one of my least favourite topics / genres.
Although I’ve read similar before, I liked the phase, ‘wafted in on a cloud of heavy perfume’.
Laura is full of self-doubt as I’m sure many girls would given the difference in upbringings but Nick was charmingly reassuring.
When interviewed, Laura defended her bookshop and reminded the reader the 160 libraries shut past two years. Even though this is fiction, it feels like this could have been true.
There is a lot to love about this novella including the character name ‘Egg’ (although ‘This Life’ beat Harriet to it), the reference to fat chips, Laura & Paddy’s doorbell code, the line ‘He looks at you like you’re saving him from drowning (a clap out loud moment for any writer), Laura feeling crowded by the family portraits, and the Hot Fuzz and Little Chef reminiscences.
And the ending… just superb.
And now for writers…
- Regular readers of these reviews will know that I pick up on ‘Well’s when used as pauses (usually at the beginning of sentences) in dialogue and there are 16 in this novella… far too many.
- There are also ‘started to’ and ‘began to’ that need not (or rather should not) be there. Kill your darlings, although these couldn’t be called darling at all. Other words that could go are ‘totally’ and ‘completely’ and we have both here.
- There are few clichés but I did pick up on ‘turned on her heel’ and ‘skin’s as thick as a rhino’, and three biting of lips which too much in a novella even of this length (c. 25,000 words) and something that could be overdone in any story.
- When writing in past tense narration, as this story is, timeframes should be in the past i.e. ‘ago’ should be ‘before’… yesterday should be the day before, likewise ‘by now’ should be ‘by then’… unless in dialogue which is present tense.
- Writers should also be careful with the names they give their characters. In this novella we have Laura, Lara* and Lavinia, Charles, Casey and Clive. *Page 75 (of 107) reveals why the author used the names Laura and Lara and it’s a little cliché but works for the plot.
A charming and funny read with many poignant moments. A book that Helen Fielding (author of the Bridget Jones series) probably secretly wishes she’d written (although a couple of scenes where it felt like she had). And for writers, this novella is a great example of natural characters and dialogue. In a final author’s note, Harriet hopes that we enjoy the book. I certainly did.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.