Once upon a time there was a girl who loved books ….

…. she discovered them when she was very, very small, and as he grew up she found more and more to love.

Mother and Child Reading by Frederick Warren Freer

Mother and Child Reading by Frederick Warren Freer

There were so many worlds in explore, in the past, in the present, and in the future. There were so many fascinating people to meet; real peple and fictional people. There were stories, there were adventures, there was so much to learn.

And it was lovely to step out of the real world sometimes.

She knew that lots of other people liked books, but, maybe because she came from a very small town, she didn’t know anyone who loved a lot of the books she loved. It was lovely to be able to talk to them, to recommend books, and to dicover so many new books, new publishers, new possibilities …

One of those possibilities was a book blog. She started writing about books and bookish things on a blog of her very own. And in time she found more places to write her book thoughts. Just to celebrate the books and tell more people about them. Because some people don’t use LibraryThing, or read book blogs.

There were some ups and downs, but for a very long time everything went swimmingly.

But one day – a day when life had left her at a rather low ebb – a nasty comment hit her very hard. A comment that said that she had mislead the writer over many books and authors. It wasn’t on Librarything, it wasn’t on her blog, it was somewhere else. And when she replied that maybe she and the writer had different tastes, that maybe the writer should look elsewhere for recommendations, things escalated.

She retreated into her shell for a little while. She realised that maybe she was being rather sensitive, but she had been shy and sensitive all her life. There are worse failings. And that uncomfortable dialogue hit particular nerves.

One of the things that disappoints her most in life is when they people won’t accept that others can have different tastes, different values, different views of the world, and it doesn’t have to mean that somebody is right and somebody is wrong. Sometimes there is no right and wrong.Some things are subjective. That’s just not about books, it’s about all kinds of things in life.

The other thing that upset her was the allegation that she had a particular agenda when she wrote about books. Because she didn’t. And when she picked herself up again she realised that she had to do something she had always resisted. She had to write a statement of principle, a policy if you like. And here is what she wrote.

I am a reader, and I don’t consider myself a critic or a reviewer. I respond to books emotionally and I try to explain that reaction as honestly and fairly as I can.

Most books come from my own shelves or from the library, and some come from publishers, authors or publicists. But it doesn’t matter where a book comes from, they are all treated the same.

I know that a book that I can’t warm to isn’t necessarily a bad book. It might be the perfect book for somebody with different experiences, for someone at a different point in life, for someone who is looking for something different in a book. And I know that because I can see how much my own tastes have changed over time.

I try to be sensitive to the feelings of authors, and others with an emotional investment in a particular book. That doesn’t mean I won’t be critical, but I will always try to be fair and constructive.

If I’m not getting on with a book I’ll usually put it to one side or give up on it completely. So you won’t find many negative reports, just the occasional one, where I’ve enjoyed an author’s books in the past, or when a book has been particularly recommended. Because there are too many great books out there to be read and re-read to spend too much time with books that disappoint.

I do this to celebrate the joy of reading, and to share that with other readers. No more and no less.

She almost decided to give up writing about books. That might sound feeble, but her life was busy and complicated, and books and writing about books were meant to be an escape from difficult, troublesome things. She decided in the end though that she couldn’t give up, that she would miss it far too much. Not just the writing, the reading what other people had to say about books too. And then the voice that told her what to write about books, the voice that had disappeared for a while, came back into her head.

She realised that the answer was to focus on her blog and her own corner of the bookish world, and to let some of the other things go.

It’s quite possible that she will do things a little differently in the future, but she will definitely be back …

33 responses

  1. Jane, I’m so sorry to hear about this. Please don’t stop writing about the books you love – the real, genuine book bloggers do this, and they’re the ones I read, and yours was among the first I started reading and following. We will never all agree on a book as readers, and that’s the joy of it. Unfortunately the Internet can harbour nastiness and it’s awful you should receive this while simply sharing something you love. Ignore it and be strong and continue to share your thoughts on books – I for one want to keep reading your views! x

    • Jumping in to echo Karen/kaggsy’s thoughts as I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m sorry you’ve run into some nastiness but you have hordes of friends here who would be so said if you stopped what you’re doing.

  2. Hi Jane. This has made me v sad to hear of your bad experience from insensitive people. I love your blog and really admire that you commit to the time and effort to really think about what you’ve read and then to put your thoughts out there. I hope it hasn’t put you off blogging. I’ve found so many amazing books thanks to your blog and also I can live in beautiful Cornwall vicariously through your writing. All good wishes, Brenda

  3. Oh how horrible Jane, I am so sorry you suffered such nastiness. Please don’t let it stop you writing about the books you love, you would be badly missed by many many people.

  4. I have been one of your readers ever since I subscribed to Goodreads, in 2011. I am not very keen on blogging myself, but I love to read and your reviews have often been a source of inspiration for some really great books. I am just about to finish ”The Young Clementina”, which I started reading after seeing your review. Don’t be put off by some opinionated reader, there are “silent” people who really enjoy your reviews and would like to read many more. Cheer up! 🙂

  5. “I do this to celebrate the joy of reading, and to share that with other readers.”
    You do it so beautifully, Jane! I know I’m grateful for how you share your love of reading with us.

  6. Oh Jane, this is so saddening AND maddening! You write with gentle sensibilities and intelligence and for someone to have been so mean just shows their level of ignorance and short-sightedness. I read many book blogs and yours is a favourite. Many of the books I’ve read and enjoyed were often because of your reviews/recommendations. I’m so sorry that this happened. I’m hoping that you’ll continue to share your passion for books with us. I’m sure Briar agrees. Hugs.

  7. I’m sorry you’ve had such a bad experience but please don’t give up blogging.It’s so easy to remember the nasty comments & forget all the positive ones but the positive outweigh the negative by far.

  8. Dear Fleur, I have been subscribed for some time now to your blog and read each entry with interest~ I am always aware that books , just like art or music ect are very subjective things~ You never at any time ,that I have seen on your blog, stated that you are a professional book critic and purport to know whether a book lacks or deserves merit or not except according to your own standards and tastes. You simply share your personal thoughts and views with others and then if they choose to read a book you have enjoyed and do not like it, it is not your responsibility then to apologize , or indeed if the author of book does not write in a way you find appealing or interesting , you have every right to express your views about her or his style ect, freely. If one has a blog , you will unfortunately always be at the mercy of those people out there who are unhappy and full of venom or jealousy and a host of other unpleasant qualities or issues. Try not to take it to heart, although I know it can sting and offend~ there really is no reasoning with such people or appealing to a higher nature or rational . I have no doubt that many more people enjoy your thoughts on the many books you read . Keep posting! We would miss you if you stopped.

  9. Jane, adding my sympathy and commiseration. I just don’t understand the kind of nastiness that you were faced with, and why it flourishes on-line. I had missed your posts but I do understand why you pulled back. I’m glad to hear that you are finding your way back to your corner of the bookish world – one we are all so happy to share with you.

  10. Jane, I’m sorry you had to go through such an upsetting experience. Please don’t give up writing the blog. I came across it earlier this year when I was dealing with a serious illness, and your posts both engaged me and introduced me to wonderful books and authors of whom I’d been unaware. You and those books helped me through a very difficult time. I’m sure many of your other readers join me in thanking you for sharing your world with us.

  11. I’m so sorry to hear that you had to deal with someone like that. I know that even with a chorus of support, one negative voice can stand out and make the others seem irrelevant. I’m happy to hear that you have decided to continue writing about the books you love. You’ve introduced me to so many new (to me), and now beloved, authors. I wish you the best moving forward and hope that one more voice to this chorus of support may make the difference in drowning out the dissent.

  12. That is so not fair! It’s all about the love of reading, and sharing and celebrating that through our blogs, and of course we all have our own reading tastes – it wouldn’t be as fun otherwise. Jane, I love the distinctive way in which you write your posts, and you’ve induced me to explore loads of books I wouldn’t otherwise have looked at making yours one of the most-read blogs on my bookbar – Thank you. I’m so glad you’re carrying on.

  13. Jane, just to say I agree with what other people have already said – I am glad you will be still be writing, as I love reading your blog and seeing what books you have read, and the beautiful places around your Cornish home. We all have different tastes, but unfortunately some people refuse to accept this, which is terribly upsetting – it’s a form of bullying I think. It’s probably no help, but I know exactly how you feel, because when I was a reporter there were occasions when individual people were very nasty indeed about things I had written and insisted I was wrong and had a hidden agenda, because they felt the story should have been presented in a different way, or certain facts left out.

  14. Another who enjoys your blog very much and who is sorry you had such a distressing experience.
    I am so glad it hasn’t made you stop writing.
    I love Briar’s blogs too!

  15. ‘Misled’?! That really sums up perfectly the lack of insight of your silly commentator! Every day I feel so fortunate to belong, *instead*, to the lovely and supportive book-blogging community represented by everyone above me in these comments. You have such a refreshing and idiosyncratic voice, Jane – long may it continue.

  16. Hello Jane, how terrible that you had to encounter one of the many internet weirdos that are out there. It’s a horrible feeling (especially being very sensitive) when some stranger suddenly lashes out at you for nothing. I recently had a shocking experience with some insane and aggressive woman on ebay who bought a book from me and sent a string of abusive messages in one night. I was actually shaking! One only has to glance at the horrid and obscene comments people leave on you tube videos to see that there are a lot of very scary people in the world, and we should count ourselves blessed if we don’t have to encounter any of them in person! Please don’t give this person another thought. I’m so glad you are not going to let one rude person stop you from doing something you love and sharing your favourite books! Best wishes, Lori

  17. I’m sorry you’ve had such an awful experience, Jane. I can only repeat what everyone else has already said above. Your blog is one of my favourites and I always look forward to hearing what you and Briar have to say. I’m so glad to hear you’re going to continue!

  18. I’m also shy and sensitive and can understand how this type of incident could make you pull back from blogging. I can only echo everyone else who’s commented in saying that your blog is one of my favorites, I truly enjoy reading your posts and I hope you continue to write about books for many years to come. Down with negativity and nastiness!

  19. I was shocked to read that you’d been accused of being misleading, and truly sorry that you’ve had such a miserable experience. So glad that you’ve decided not to give up.

  20. I am echoing what everyone else has said. The only way to rise above it is to continue your reading and your blogging. I am shocked that someone could not just see that what works for one doesn’t for another.

    I have read lots because of you and love the insight into your life.

  21. Jane, I am so sorry something like this has happened to you. I love reading your book comments and it never, ever occurred to me that you had an agenda. I’m sure I speak for many other readers. Please do keep on blogging and if you just can’t then put Briar on. I dare anyone to criticize Briar

  22. Being a shy and sensitive one myself, I can imagine how unpleasant and horrible an experience this must have been for you. Thankfully, you did not allow the insensitive, thoughtless commentator to rob us of you! Yes, we are all very much looking forward to you sharing with us all your adventures in books (and with Briar!) in your lovely corner of the world. 🙂

  23. I would be most disappointed if you didn’t write about books. I have read so many that I loved from your recommendations. Most recent is Lucy Carmichael. I loved that book! I would have never read it if it hadn’t been for you! I have been missing you and was worried that something had happened. I’m so sorry that you went through this. Please, oh please, oh please do not stop writing about the books you love. I am richer for the ones I have read.

  24. Hey Jane, that’s awful, I’m so sorry to read this. I love your blog and was so pleased when I found it and so happy to get to know you and Briar a little through it. Your posts are so thoughtful and considered, and I find them inspiring. I hope you’ll be back and that you’ll be able to find enjoyment in your blog and try and forget the other bits (easier said than done I know.) I am shy and sensitive too, and easily hurt and discouraged. Take care of yourself and give that pup a special cuddle and have a good long walk, these things always help me anyway, when not much else does. Lindsay x

  25. I should be very sorry if you were to stop blogging because you have introduced me to books I wouldn’t have found otherwise.

    I am grateful when people take the time to blog and share their reading. It’s a pity that this comment was made and I understand why you would wish to withdraw, but I hope you don’t.


  26. What a lovely article! I just want to say how impressed I am by your maturity and creativity (to be able to write about a painful event in story form!) I have to confess I don’t think I could do half as well as you have, should this type of thing happen(s) to me.
    And, although I have just now come across your blog I do echo the other comments here and hope you continue to write about books. I have read several of your reviews and they have already helped me find some new titles to look for!

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