Thoughts on Sarah Blake’s “The Postmistress”

by Kim on February 17, 2011 · 32 comments

Post image for Thoughts on Sarah Blake’s “The Postmistress”

Today my first “professional” book review was posted online — The Postmistress by Sarah Blake. In addition to getting to review the book, I also got to interview Sarah while she was in Denver on her book tour, so some of her thoughts on writing the book are part of that story.

I have to admit, I was a little bit intimidated working on this story because doing a mainstream review is a different style than what I write on the blog. I didn’t get to use the word “awesome” as much, and I felt like I had to pull back my personal opinions on the book a bit to talk about it in more general terms. My editor at the paper is excellent — she really helped me articulate my ideas about the book more clearly than I initially could. Writing this kind of review was a challenge, but one that I hope I get to try again!

There were also some things from my interview with Sarah that I didn’t get to include with the story. One thing I asked her about was how she feels about the growing need for authors to be online and publicizing their own work. She said,

One of the great things about being able to have a presence online and being able to go and give readings and tours for me, and I suspect most others, is the chance to speak to readers. For me it’s very energizing because oftentimes, as you know, it took a long, long time to write this book. To be out and reading it and to hear questions puts me in a conversation that makes the book feel alive in a way that is very exciting. I enjoy that very much.

I think that the more person-to-person contact that comes when a book goes out into the world the better it is for everybody – readers and writers and for books. Books are these living, breathing, entities and it’s a great thing to be able to have them alive in the marketplace and not get lost with any other media. I think any chance to have books be exchanged and part of a conversation, the better.

Sarah also told me she’s currently reading Wallace Stengner’s Angle of Repose, and just finished a collection of short stories by Alice Monroe and Howards End by E.M. Forester because, “My next novel has to do with a big, old family house on the coast of Maine, so I’m reading a lot of novels that have to do with that – family stories that take place in big houses.” Exciting!

Anyway, I’m curious to hear what you think and hope you’ll hop over to read the interview/review. And if you’re in Madison, be sure to go to Sarah’s reading on Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m. at the West Side Barnes & Noble (7433 Mineral Point Road).

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeanne February 17, 2011 at 9:25 am

I like hearing your voice adapted for a more general audience in that review. Nice work! (if you can get it…now I’m hearing the song…)

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Kim February 19, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Thank you, Jeanne! I think doing the review gave me some ideas for writing better reviews here on the blog!

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Steph February 17, 2011 at 9:45 am

Fantastic review, Kim. I would never have guessed that was your first “professional” review. Your writing felt fluid and confident and certainly matched the tone of what one would expect in a book review.

And it’s always lovely to get to speak with an author about a book you enjoyed, isn’t it? I love the insights they can provide and the way getting some backstory can help enhance your overall reading experience.

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Kim February 17, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Thanks, Steph! I really enjoyed talking to Sarah. I was a bit nervous at first, but she was really nice and excited to talk about the book. It was fun to get to ask her about some of the questions I had about the book and the characters, which we don’t usually get.

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Ash February 17, 2011 at 11:23 am

That is so exciting! I’m bookmarking your review so I can read it later. It would be really hard to switch to a more professional review style.

I love what she said about online presence. I think it’s great that authors are out there talking about their work with readers and the Internet allows for that in a way we’ve never seen before.

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Kim February 17, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Thanks Ash! Changing styles is tricky, especially when it’s on a topic you usually write about in a less formal style. But it’s a good challenge, for sure. And I agree; I love that authors are able to interact with readers who enjoy their books.

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bermudaonion (Kathy) February 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Congratulations on your first paid review! I went over to read it and it’s fabulous!

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Kim February 17, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Thanks Kathy!

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Meg February 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Wonderful job, Kim! I can definitely see the difficulties of adapting a book review to a general audience, and the way you incorporated Blake’s quotes was very well done. Congrats!

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Kim February 17, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Meg: I’m so glad I got to interview Sarah; that made writing it a lot easier since she said so many interesting things about the book.

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Trisha February 17, 2011 at 5:37 pm

The rhetorical situation makes such a difference in diction and tone! Then again maybe more “awesomes” should be injected in mainstream reviews. :)

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Kim February 17, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Trisha: Ha, you are so right! Maybe next time I’ll toss in an awesome or two, since I love that word.

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softdrink February 17, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Yay for you! I like that the review was more interview-y…it’s much more readable and interesting than the more traditional professional reviews that are just about the book.

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Kim February 19, 2011 at 5:50 pm

softdrink: I liked that, too. It was fun to get to talk to Sarah and incorporate that into talking about the book. I think that was easier than a straight review :)

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Aths February 17, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Congratulations!! This is so wonderful! I just read your “first professional review” and it is excellent! Really well written!

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Kim February 19, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Aths: Thank you!

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Susan February 17, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Lovely review, Kim! I went to your linked site and read it. Very interesting, both how you discuss the book and allow Sarah’s voice to be heard so directly, so it’s like she’s talking to us the reader also. Thanks so much for sharing this! Now to go find the book, now that it’s in softcover…..

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Kim February 19, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Thanks, Susan! I thought it was great I got to interview Sarah, and so wanter her to be able to tell about the book, too. But it was sort of tricky to incorporate her thoughts with the review, so glad it worked.

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nomadreader (Carrie) February 18, 2011 at 11:14 am

How exciting! I don’t have much desire to actually use my journalism degree and write professional reviews, but I do miss the challenge of writing within particular conventions at times.

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Kim February 19, 2011 at 5:56 pm

It was really exciting, Carrie. I didn’t think I wanted to write professional reviews either, but this was fun and I hope to get some more. It’s definitely a different voice than the one I use here.

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Care February 18, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Congrats!! AWESOME. :)

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Kim February 19, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Thanks, Care!

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tolmsted (BookSexy Review) February 19, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Kim congratulations on your first professional/paid review! I followed the link and thought it was very well written. I was particularly keen on how you were able to be critical of the novel without being dismissive/rude – you balanced the good and the bad, giving a fair review – never an easy thing to accomplish.

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Kim February 19, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Thanks a lot, Tara! It’s hard to decide how much of my own opinion to include — I wanted to talk about my impressions of the book, but since it’s for a general audience my personal opinions seemed less important. I’m glad the review sounded fair, that’s what I was going for.

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kay @ Infiniteshelf February 20, 2011 at 12:33 am

That’s an amazing review! Congratulations! :) I’m impressed by how you were able to change your voice, and yet you gave a very balance review. Very professional. You ought to be proud!

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Kim February 21, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Thank you Kay, I am :)

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Kate {The Parchment Girl} February 27, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Congratulations on your first professional review! I know what you mean about removing some of the more personal elements of the review. I tend to do that on my regular blog reviews because it makes it easier to process the book when I look at it from an impersonal perspective.

So, my question for you: Did writing this kind of book review change the way you thought about the book at all? Did it give you a new perspective on it?

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Kim March 1, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Thanks a lot Kate! I think writing the review this way made think about the book more. If it was my personal review, I might have been lazy and said just what I liked and didn’t like about it. Doing it this way made me think more about what the author was trying to do, which was a good exercise.

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Anna March 11, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Congrats! Great review.

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Kim March 13, 2011 at 7:43 am

Thanks, Anna!

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