Month: December 2014

Recent reads – Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett

It’s historical fiction time! I first picked up a Ken Follett book in a secondhand bookshop when travelling through Nicaragua. I was looking for a big thick saga to read by the pool and Pillars of the Earth ticked all the boxes. Follett has been a guilty pleasure ever since.

Edge of Eternity is the latest Ken Follett novel, the third in his Century series, continuing to follow families in Russia, Germany, the UK and the US from 1961 to 1989. This is another doorstopper of a book, running over 1,000 pages (yay Christmas holidays, otherwise this would have taken me months to read) but there’s an awful lot of history crammed inside.

I was entertained right to the end, keen to see how the characters reacted to the events of 1989, considering a significant amount of the book was set in Eastern Europe. These sections were particularly interesting to me. However Edge of Eternity is weaker than Follett’s previous novels. Many characters were thin with the focus more on the historical details. Tania, the Russian journalist, was one of the exceptions and Maria Summers, the African-American bureaucrat. Although at the end, Maria’s regrets had my feminist alarm bell ringing. I was also surprised there was no mention of Chernobyl, although I guess Follett could not have included everything, otherwise it would be a 2,000 page book.

All in all, not as good as Pillars of the Earth or Falls of Giants, but still entertaining enough to keep me gripped for 1,000 plus pages.

edge of eternity

How I deal with the dreaded feedback

If you never do anything, then you’re safe from getting feedback.

Actually that’s not even true, sometimes random strangers feel compelled to let you know how you’re progressing with helpful comments like “why don’t you smile?”, “looking good” or “get out of my way.”

However, feedback is part of the process of improving. Whether at work or in writing, feedback and criticism is helpful, necessary yet frightening. We’re all delicate little flowers underneath and no one likes to be told, you’re crap.

I’ve recently put my writing out into the world for the first time, actively seeking feedback from beta readers and an editor. Scary stuff. I received a manuscript assessment about four weeks ago and while the feedback was mainly good and constructive, I went my own emotional rollercoaster ride of dealing with the feedback. It’s the same cycle I’ve been through many times with other feedback.

www.jaysamit.com

Here’s how it usually goes….

  • Day 1 – Punch to the stomach/ ego bruising. Focusing on the bad bits. Self doubt mixed with wanting to quit, hating the world and wanting to crawl under the quilt, never to come out again. This usually lasts a day or two.
  • Day 2 or 3- Processing the feedback. Re-reading (or replaying) the feedback. Glimmers of hope start to appear and (usually) it is not as wrist-slitty, soul-destroyingly bad as I feared on Day 1.
  • Day 4 – Action. The sun reappears from behind the clouds, I wake up determined and with direction of what to do next. I focus fixing stuff. Right! Let’s get on it!

Now despite the fact that I know this about myself, I forget it every time I receive feedback. I only remember on reflection – oh yeah I always do this, don’t I? Sometimes the process goes longer, sometimes shorter, but always the same.

How do you deal with feedback? Do you go through the same cycle?

Recent reads – Csardas by Diane Pearson

When I’m writing my speculative fiction, I try to read from another contrasting genre to cut down on the influence. So during Nanowrimo 2014, I read historical fiction instead and the novel “Csardas” by Diane Pearson.

Csardas, a family saga set in Hungary, traces the lives of three privileged families from the simple days prior to WW1 right through the establishment of the Communist regime post WW2. The novel begins following the “enchanting Ferenc sisters” Eva and Malie as they enter society and as the world collapses into WW1. It follows the losses and uncertainty of war and the impact on their suitors and their families as everyone tries to make sense of the new world. This story continues following their brothers and eventually their children.

With a large number of character, only three really captured my interest. The two sisters, the sensible and strong Malie, the frivolous and silly Eva and later in the novel, the son of a peasant on the neighbouring Kaldy estate, Janos. We follow Janos from his abject poverty to his blossoming career in the new communist world, a man who cannot connect with his own feelings.

This book had a little too much romance for my liking (yes, I am a bitter old prune), however the struggle for the old guard to come to terms with the new world captured my interest, especially shown through Eva who bitterly complains about not receiving roses, when they barely have enough bread to eat.

Interesting, yet saggy in the middle.

csardas

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