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Tough love

Why do book reviewers insist on being so nice? More honesty would benefit everyone

By Leo Benedictus   May 2011

Would more bad reviews eventually lead to more good books? Photo: Horia Varlan

Jacqueline Howett is unusual among novelists because you may have heard of her. Wounded by a blogger’s recent review of her book, The Greek Seaman, she insisted in the comments section that she saw “no flaws” in the borderline-illiterate prose he quoted. “You are a big rat and a snake with poisenous venom,”[sic] she added, rather making the reviewer’s point. “Fuck off!” she typed later, when it became clear from other comments that opinion was not gathering behind her. Nineteen minutes later, when the queue of opponents…

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