Hazel McHaffie

Critical reading

A couple of months ago someone gave me a book with the comment: ‘I think this is your kind of thing.’

Well, I can see her point.

The said novel deals with or skirts around an impressive number of meaty issues: inherited diseases, fatal illness, teenage pregnancy, homosexuality, assisted death, parental loss and grief, infertility, infanticide, child abduction, cot death … My kind of subjects.

It has the strap line: It’s every mother’s worst nightmare … My kind of hook.

PaternityThe blurb on the back cover lets me know that it’s about tragedy striking a young mother, it’s a tear-jerker, and involves secrets and betrayal … My kind of storyline. In fact it’s about a baby with a rare recessive gene disorder and all that that implies: an angle I even used in one of my own novels, Paternity, some ten years ago. So, yes indeed, it does sound like my kind of reading.

The ChoiceWhat then was this book? The Choice by Susan Lewis.

I’ve been pegging away fairly relentlessly at my own writing and marketing and publicity tasks (yawn yawn) so I decided to take a break and a little light relief on Monday and Tuesday this week. The Choice was top of my tbr pile.

It kept me turning the pages certainly, I wanted to know how things panned out for Nikki and Spence and their baby, what dark secret Nikki’s parents were harbouring. But I was itching to edit it! I guess, constantly revising my own writing has made me ultra-critical and nitpicky. Throughout to book, my own editor’s advice was ringing in my ears: lose another third; cut out all the bits you’re especially proud of; is that character fully earning her keep?; what’s that secondary story line contributing? make sure all your facts tally¬† … Cut, cut, cut. Edit, edit, edit. She would have had me reduce that 532 pages to 252! But in truth Susan Lewis has published 30 books and established a resounding reputation, She needs no endorsement from me!

The book served my purpose, however. Thanks to a break away reading someone else’s work, I can return to my own writing with renewed enthusiasm.

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