A few months ago, I watched a video on the YouTube channel Mercys Bookish Musings in which Mercedes read 1-star reviews of books that she loves. I found the idea so interesting that I decided to also have a look for negative reviews of some of my favourite books on Goodreads and write my reactions to a number of them.
I chose five books from different genres and selected a review for each one of them that pinpoints the reasons why the person basically hated it. I’ll now quickly explain why I respectfully disagree with such opinions. It’s normal to have dissimilar views on books, so it’s not my purpose to be offensive towards other readers.
Rebecca was the first book that I read by Daphne du Maurier and remains my favourite after having read other three (Jamaica Inn, The King’s General and My Cousin Rachel). I was aware that not everyone is a fan of this novel, but I didn’t think I was going to find so strong negative views, such as the one below.
What can I say? The characters are one of the reasons why I love this novel. Their common story is so absorbing that, as soon as I finished reading, I missed being in their company. I also can’t remember a major plot line that doesn’t get a resolution. The narrator, Mrs de Winter, is extremely insecure, true, but she becomes much surer of herself by the end.
I debated for a while whether to choose The Miniaturist or The Muse for the purpose of this post. I settled on Jessie Burton’s debut novel, because I believe that it is a more divisive one. In fact, I was already aware of many of the criticisms that I encountered while choosing a 1-star review.
I’ll just be addressing a few of the points made in this review, seeing that some fall into the category of personal preferences, and I can’t argue about that. Not understanding the reason why the book is titled The Miniaturist is a recurring criticism made about it. In my opinion, the title is related to the characters being almost like miniatures of what they could have been if they hadn’t lived in a society that oppresses them and prevents them to lead their lives as they would have liked. Thus, the miniaturist is not only a person but the seventeenth-century Dutch society as a whole.
I disagree that it doesn’t focus on the story it is telling and that the characters lack depth. They are more complex than they seem at first. I became quite attached to them, even though some are not particularly likeable. Also, the last thing I would say about it is that it’s uneventful. It may be a slow-read at the beginning (which I didn’t mind), but it soon becomes a page-turner.
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
I thought that A Game of Thrones was a book either loved or liked by everyone who enjoys fantasy. I was wrong!
It’s really difficult to address the points made in this review without spoiling the book. I’ll try, though. Predictable events? They were only predictable to me because I had watched the first three seasons of Game of Thrones before I started reading the books, and I loved it anyway. But I don’t think what happens at the end is that common in fantasy. I would also never call the characters one dimensional. Not even Ned Stark is wholly honourable. He lies to protect the ones he loves. The characters have different layers to them, which is one of the reasons why so many people love this book.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice is not only my favourite book by Jane Austen, but also one of my favourite classics. I’m bound to disagree on everything a person who doesn’t like it thinks.
I would never describe Austen’s style as pretentious. She doesn’t shy away from being witty, though, and I love that. I don’t think the characters are one dimensional either. They learn from their mistakes, realise that they have misjudged people and change their ways. The misunderstandings between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy are used to criticise the importance given to social status.
The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis by José Saramago
I was expecting the majority of the 1-star reviews to damn the writing style. There were a couple of those, but I found this one much more interesting.
This reviewer has a point when she says that being aware of its “meta-ness” enriches the reading experience. This book is considered to be one the best ever written by Saramago in Portugal but isn’t as well-known worldwide for a reason. From my point of view, it’s fantastic, but I also like Fernando Pessoa and enjoy reading about the period it is set in.
What’s your opinion on these books? Do you love or hate them? Tell me in the comments!