This week Goodreads sent me a notice that I had read 48 books this past year. I hadn't been keeping track of books read, but I thought the number seemed low. After a moment's thought, I realized it meant the number of books reviewed on the Goodreads site. I did, in fact, read many more.
There are lots of reasons for not posting a review on Goodreads or Amazon or Librarything, or any of a number of sites set up for readers to find books. Sometimes I pick up a book that can only be found overseas or is so well known that it doesn't need a review from me, such as something by Charles Dickens. But sometimes I pick up a book recommended by someone else and read it even though it's outside my comfort zone. It's just not the kind of book I'm interested in. This is what happened to me recently.
I've heard about a certain author and knew he was wildly successful, so I wanted to see what he wrote and how he went about telling a story. I found a book from his earlier years and settled in to learn as well as enjoy the story. About half way through I had to decide if I would finish the book or not. After a minute I decided I would. I had come this far and would see it through to the end. There was no question about the quality of the story telling. This writer can set up a story and keep it moving forward, page after page. But I knew how it would end. And I also knew I wouldn't review it.
I understand that all of us as writers are tied to our time and place in history. As forward thinking as we like to believe we are, at some point in the future someone is going to find the blindspot in our thinking. We belong to our time. I warn readers about this when they pick up a book from a favorite writer from the 1930s and 1940s who is new to them and later complain about the author's prejudices. Agatha Christie was mostly of her time, as were many other writers in the so-called Golden Age. But what about someone writing in the 1960s up to the present?
The book I decided not to review was one in which a young woman died unnecessarily and unpleasantly, and another woman, who had absolutely nothing to do with the crime except that she was married to the intended victim, was put through a humiliating and, in all honesty, a male fantasy of rape. It wasn't necessary for the story.
This kind of writing, despite the great success of the writer, says to me "lazy thinking." Yes, it's a way to heighten the tension, and yes, it's a way to keep readers reading, but no, it's not necessary to abuse women to keep the story going and keep the reader interested. It's certainly not the only way, considering the number of successful women writers who manage to do it, such as Sara Paretsky.
I didn't bother posting a review of this book and I doubt the author would care either way. I don't want to say anything positive about a story that in the end I found revolting enough in some aspects to ruin the entire story for me. But thanks to this one book, I have became much more skeptical of writers who claim their plot devices are necessary and much more likely to interpret their work as superficial and based on shortcuts.