Four-Sentence Book Review: A Broom of One’s Own

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Posted by Kathy Waller

A while back, I accepted a challenge to write a book review of  Nancy Peacock’s memoir A Broom of One’s Own in only four sentencesStarting well before the due date, I wrote the first sentence of the review over and over and deleted it over and over. Sometimes I wrote the same sentence several times in a row. Sometimes I made up a new sentence. After weeks of torment, I produced the following review.

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I like Nancy Peacock’s A Broom of One’s Own: Words About Writing, Housecleaning & Life so much that it’s taken me over two months and two missed deadlines to untangle my thoughts and write this four-sentence review, an irony Peacock, author of two critically acclaimed novels, would no doubt address were I in one of her writing classes.

She would probably tell me that there is no perfect writing life; that her job as a part-time housecleaner, begun when full-time writing wouldn’t pay the bills, afforded time, solitude, and the “foundation of regular work” she needed;  that engaging in physical labor allowed her unconscious mind to “kick into gear,” so she became not the writer but the “receiver” of her stories.


She’d probably say that writing is hard; that sitting at a desk doesn’t automatically bring brilliance; that writers have to work with what they have; that “if I don’t have the pages I hate I will never have the pages I love”; that there are a million “saner” things to do and a “million good reasons to quit” and that the only good reason to continue is, “This is what I want.”

So, having composed at least two dozen subordinated, coordinated, appositived, participial-phrase-stuffed first sentences and discarded them before completion; having practically memorized the text searching for the perfect quotation to end with; and having once again stayed awake into the night, racing another deadline well past the due date, I am completing this review–because I value Nancy Peacock’s advice; and because I love A Broom of One’s Own; and because I consider it the equal of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird; and because I want other readers to know about it; and because this is what I want.

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This review first appeared on Whiskertips.

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Kathy Waller blogs at To Write Is to Write Is to Write and at Austin Mystery Writers. Two of her short stories, “A Nice Set of Wheels,” and “Hell on Wheels,” will appear in the Austin Mystery Writers anthology, MURDER ON WHEELS, to be published by Wildside Press this spring.

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24 Responses to Four-Sentence Book Review: A Broom of One’s Own

  1. Nancy Jardine says:

    Kathy- that is a very powerful review. I haven’t read Nancy Peacock’s book, but if she also advocates packing a lot into one sentence, then you’ve made a new convert in me! 🙂 I also write reviews but never find it easy. I hate spoilers and avoiding a hint of that often takes a lot of effort and a lot of recomposing, though my attempts tend not to be so beautifully written as yours is. I find myself shortening the sentences in a review rather than making big long ones.

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    • Kathy Waller says:

      Thank you. Nancy Peacock would probably be horrified at those stuffed sentences, but there was a lot I wanted to say, and that was a last-ditch effort to say it. When I began writing fiction, I was told to cut out the long (but not complicated) sentences, and to lose the semicolons. Ever since, my sentences have been shrinking. Thanks for commenting, Nancy.

      Like

  2. What a great review! In our writing group in Mexico we had a class in writing long sentences. Yours are beautifully written and I know how hard it is to do because I’ve tried it. I understand that it took you so long, because to get the information all in one powerful sentence is very difficult, let alone four! Enjoyed this post very much. Thanks for sharing.

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    • Kathy Waller says:

      I’ve never heard of a class in writing long sentences. That would be so interesting. People keep telling me to untangle long sentences because readers won’t understand them. This was fun to write. I may try another one. Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  3. Reblogged this on L.LEANDER BOOKS and commented:
    Thought you all might enjoy this post on Writing Wranglers and Warriors about writing long sentence reviews. This also applies to any writing – it’s a personal thing. Follow along with Author Kathy Waller as she explains her process. Published on Writing Wranglers and Warriors.

    Like

  4. Doris says:

    Yes, Kathy, we do this because ‘this is what we want’. Although we may grumble and become frustrated, we must follow our muse and our hearts. It may not be easy, we may try to force the issue, but ultimately we end up allowing the ‘story’ to flow through. Your review and finally the book you strived to put into four sentences tells the story perfectly. Doris

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    • Kathy Waller says:

      You’re right, Doris, about the grumbling and frustration and forcing, when all we need to do is get out of our own way and let things flow. May I share a secret? I was planning to post something I wrote and revised several weeks ago, but it wasn’t right, and I couldn’t make it right, so in the middle of last night I brought out the review. If I hadn’t been fighting with myself, I might have been able to use the one I intended. Go figure. 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

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  5. Kaye George says:

    Kudos on capturing the style of Charles Dickens. I will HAVE to check out this book, too. Thanks! I must have missed this the first time around.

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  6. Kaye George says:

    I’ll add that I adore Dickens, just in case my comment was misconstrued.

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  7. Neva Bodin says:

    You brought a smile and some insight to why I write and should keep writing and sparked an interest in Peacock’s book! I am breathless but impressed! Enjoyed the review.

    Like

  8. Well, you’ve definitely sparked my interest in four sentences. Will definitely check this book out.

    Like

    • Kathy Waller says:

      I’m glad you’re interested, Abbie. I’ve sometimes wondered whether the review attracts or discourages readers. I hope you like it as much as I did. Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  9. Kathy Waller says:

    Reblogged this on To write is to write is to write and commented:
    My review of Nancy Peacock’s memoir, A Broom of One’s Own. A GOOD book.

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  10. sstamm625 says:

    Wonderful review, Kathy! Your four sentences swept me along. Now I really want to read the book! Thank you!

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    • Kathy Waller says:

      Thanks, Stephanie. As I said, I loved it so much I couldn’t review it. If you read it, please let me know what you think. I came out of it feeling great respect for the author. Thanks for commenting.

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  11. Mike Staton says:

    Looking beyond the review itself, I like how you stepped back into the 19th century and wrote long sentences with lots of commas and semi-colons, like they did in that earlier era.

    Like

  12. Wranglers says:

    Reviews are hard to wriye. The last one I wrote was gor oir own Kate. Loved her book. Do you review professionally, I don’t know how to do that. Cher’ley

    Like

  13. Gayle Irwin says:

    Swept away by the review! (pun intended!!) Enjoyed reading your fun post, Kathy!

    Like

  14. S. J. Brown says:

    Great job on a difficult task. It would have taken me much longer to accomplish.

    Like

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