Friday, November 03, 2006

A heady brew of book review clichés

Experienced writers of book reviews - just like all experienced authors - know to watch for clichés in their work. No doubt you're familiar with some of these: calling a book "unputdownable" or an "emotional rollercoaster," for example. Or noting that some faults are "only minor quibbles," or that a novel will "stay in your mind for long after the last page is turned."

For a refresher course on these and other overused phrasings, this 2004 article from the Telegraph is here to offer assistance.

But perhaps the book reviewer's most tempting adversary is the recipe format. As in, "take The Da Vinci Code, throw in some Name of the Rose, top it off with a dash of Left Behind - and you'll have something resembling Lisa Bergren's The Begotten."

Okay, I just made that one up, after examining one of the novels in my TBR pile (and I don't think it's half bad), but you get the idea. In keeping with last Friday's theme of sins and redemption, I have a confession to make - sometimes I find these recipes very funny. I nearly burst out laughing when I read Elizabeth Hawksley's review of Deryn Lake's The King's Women, about to be published in November's HNR, in which she described it as "Dan Brown meets Angelique." And plainly written on the ARC of Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death is a quote from Kirkus describing it as "CSI meets The Canterbury Tales." It fits, it really does.

I'd like to propose a challenge of sorts, without knowing whether anyone will take me up on this or not. For the novel you're currently reading (or any other you feel like), what recipe would you use to describe it? Be as creative as you wish. Alternatively, use the recipe format to propose a fictitious novel that you think would be an interesting read.

I'll be curious to see what types of literary stews people manage to cook up. Hopefully they will be edible (or readable, as the case may be).


  1. Anonymous7:46 PM

    The Lost Diary of Katherine Howard. The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn meets the The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette.

    Lord Robert. Gay Lord Robert Meets The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition.

    I promise to do better tomorrow.

  2. I guess one could call the book I'm currently reading, What Caroline Knew, a cross between I Was Madame X and Dynasty.
    Mixed media, perhaps.