Thursday, 8 July 2010

And Finally ....

So, three down, one to go. This last book I read on the plane home and then continued, sporadically after my return and is: The Kissing Gates by Mackenzie Ford.

This story is set during WWI and starts at the Christmas Day armistice when both sides had an unofficial ceasefire.

It describes how two officers from opposing sides of the war reacted to each other when they met. The German officer, Wilhelm, lived in England before the war and fell in love with an English girl but then was called up to fight for England’s enemy.

Wilhelm, tells the English officer, Hal, where his girlfriend lives and because he is unable to contact her himself asks Hal to take a photograph of him to show her that he still loves her.

Hal is later injured and is shipped back to England, never to return to the trenches. During his recovery he seeks out the English girl on behalf of Wilhelm. On meeting her though he falls in love with her and doesn’t actually carry out his task - a secret which blights their relationship for the rest of the time they are together.

I enjoyed this story on the whole but at times found it rather slow. The author included a lot of information about the times and it often seemed as though he was showing off his research rather than allowing his story to speak for itself. Certain things also kept repeating themselves and I thought the story could have been told much more succinctly.

Generally I felt that the book didn’t quite live up to its blurb which is a shame because the premise for the storyline was excellent.

What I enjoy most about holiday reading is that you can really get into a book, whereas at home I have to read during brief snatches of time. However, a train trip to York enabled me to start another book on my tbr pile. This book was Girl Friday by Jane Green.

For a light-hearted, entertaining read, you can’t get much better than Jane Green. In saying that though, I think that recently I have begun to read more like a writer than just a reader. That in itself is a double edged sword. It’s good because I think it will help to improve my own writing, but in doing so it does diminish the pure enjoyment element of reading as the little critic in my head keeps voicing its opinions.

This book is written in the present tense which I found a bit jarring at first but I got used to it as I read more of the book and stopped noticing it so much towards the end.

I indentified with the characters straight away and settled into the story quickly and couldn’t wait to find out what happened next, but then came the back story which I felt slowed it all down a bit.

This made me think. When do you introduce the back story and in what quantities?

In an ideal world, I think the back story should be drip fed in, in small quantities so that the reader hardly notices that its there. But this in itself is hard to do because we need to get to know the characters in order to empathise with them and we need to do this fairly early on in the story. However, if too much back story slows down the plot so much aren’t we in danger of losing the reader entirely?

I’m tempted to read this book again after a bit of a break so that I can identify whether my criticism is just because I was a first time reader anxious to find out what happened next.

Once I’d got over this hurdle though I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the story.

So, over to you, how do you fit in the back story without making the reader want to do a runner?


  1. Hi Linda. I know what you mean by beginning to read like a writer, and I think this is to be completely embraced, as your own writing will benefit hugely. There are a lot of novels out there that don't jar, and when you find them you appreciate/admire/envy their majesty all the more!

    Not read either of these but what a shame the premise of the first one didn't live up to expectations as it sounds fabulous. As for back story - I think it can be fed in as long as it's appropriate to the flow of the story and doesn't make the reader have to step out of the action. Drip fed works for me!

  2. Hi Jayne

    Nice to hear from you again. Sometimes when I spot the bits that jar I think there is hope for me yet! And what I am beginning to realise is that I still have a long way to go. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be published and then others I think, even if I'm not it won't stop me writing. It would just be nice to have that validation. Still, never mind, gotta keep on writing regardless. How's your synopsis coming along?