“If there is one thing worse than being an ugly duckling in a house of swans, it’s having the swans pretend there’s no difference.”
A good book review can tell you what there is to like (or not) about a book. A great review illuminates the theme of the book and places it in the canon of literature where it belongs. I love a truly great review of my books, because they tell me what my theme was. While writing, I don’t usually know what the theme is. The most thoughtful of readers will do this, tell me what meaning they’ve taken away from the book. That’s why I love this review of The Charm School. It’s a discussion of the book’s meaning to this reader. When I wrote the book, I was aiming for a rollicking romantic adventure, but this reviewer mentioned the deeper meaning of Isadora’s storyline, and its relation to the darker theme of the book–bondage (institutionalized, and emotional) and the terrible toll it takes, and the joys and rewards of throwing it off. When I read this bit:
Isadora’s plight and flight are plausible due to deft handling of the hero and heroine and to Wiggs’s creation of secondary characters who exist in other types of restrictive societies. Journey’s wife, Delilah, and others are shackled by the institution of slavery. They, no less than Isadora, are freed emotionally and physically while Wiggs delivers a powerful message with great moral effectiveness.
…I realized, finally, months after finishing it, what my book was really about. So thank you, Sue Klock! You really nailed it with this one. It celebrates everything I love to write about, including my pet theme, the power of love to transform a person’s life.
I often tell people this is one of my “money-back guarantee” books, meaning if you don’t like it, please take it back to the store and ask for a refund (most bookstores will comply). Because honestly, it’s one of the most “likeable” books I’ve ever written, even with that naughty, naughty rain forest love scene with the funny cigars. (The review cited above offers readers a warning about that….) When you’re writing about a young woman’s sexual awakening, you find yourself thinking up stuff like this.