With the intention of improving my reviews, I will be publishing short retrospectives on each of my reviews. The goal of this is to provide a critical eye as to my choices in writing each review. I am undertaking this as a learning process, and I hope to see development in my writing as I progress.
I wrote the review for What to Look for in Winter as the third and final mentored piece with the Scottish Book Trust. I feel that each piece has been a slow development, and I have yet fully realised my “reviewer’s voice.” There is a notable development since my first two reviews, that I will not be publishing, for which I am grateful.
The opening two paragraphs are the strongest, as they most clearly describe McWilliam’s novel. The sentence about blind authors in literary history was some virtuoso posturing that should have been either cut or saved until the latter end of the review. More might have been said about Colin McWilliam, particularly in relation to the fate of Candia’s mother.
I had some difficulty in judging the extent of plot I should reveal in this review. In retrospect I should have explored the mother’s suicide and Candia’s alcoholism. The latter should have been included as, in reflection, the sequence in rehabilitation was some of the strongest writing in the novel.
As such, this review starts with strength, but devolves into generalisations. In future, I wish to keep approximately 500 words allocated to plot, 200 to execution, and 100 to concluding general remarks.