Review: Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley; Harper, 2014

clever girlThe first decision an author makes in writing a story is this: first person or third? Both have advantages and limitations. First person establishes a kind of instant empathy with the narrator, and provides unlimited access to his or her thoughts and perceptions as the story unfolds. In exchange for this advantage, the author loses access to other characters’ interior lives, unless the book’s structure shifts from narrator to narrator.

First person, with its conversational style and emotional shortcuts, is generally easier for reader and writer alike. What could be more inviting than sliding right into another person’s mind? It’s the choice writers often choose when a major theme of the book is the contrast between the character and the world he lives in, or when character’s observations and unedited responses to that world establish a bond with the reader.

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As a working writer, I read not only for the passport and pleasure books bring — I read to become a better writer. As I go along, I think about what makes me love a book or put it aside without finishing. This is where I get to write about books, and about reading as a writer.