| Are South African critics too soft?
Who are the reviewers? Academics, journalists, housewives, readers, writers? Important to know, because these perspectives shape and colour the review. It isn’t a question of whether reviewers are too soft or even too harsh. It’s more a case of some reviewers not understanding their role, which is to inform readers / would-be readers about the book. Publications should avoid using reviewers whose ego gets in the way of their job of reviewing. As a reader I basically want a brief idea of what the book is about and then I would like to know what particular skill the writer has – characterisation, mood, expertise, etc. I want to read a review of the book as a stand-alone – not in reference to the writer’s other books. Sometimes I find that some reviewers rely too much on the writer’s previous publishing credits and therefore “promise” a good read. And finally I want the critic to be honest. Not scathing or gushing, just honest. I want to believe that the critic has read the book cover to cover, not just a synopsis and the first chapter or two.
As a writer reading reviews, I want to know what zing the book has that a thousand other books on the same topic/theme don’t! If I don’t get that information in the review, chances are I will not buy the book. I am more likely to buy a book that has been recommended to me by word of mouth, where I can engage with the reader who has read the book, than I am to buy a book based solely on a review.
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