4-Sentence Review: A Broom of One’s Own

  Posted by M. K. 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. For a while I wrote the same sentence several times in a row. Then I made up a new sentence and wrote it several times in a row. After weeks of torment, I buckled down and produced the following review.


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 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 could become 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 deadline, 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.


This review first appeared on Whiskertips. It was posted here in 2015. I received a copy of the book for review from Story Circle Network. My opinion is my own, and it’s as strong today as it was when I first read the book. I recommend it to anyone who writes or wants to write, and to anyone who likes to read about writers and writing.


M. K. Waller blogs at M. K. Waller–Telling the Truth, Mainly.  She has published short stories and is once again working on the novel she set aside several years ago. 


13 thoughts on “4-Sentence Review: A Broom of One’s Own

  1. As someone who frequently writes book reviews on my blog, I know for a fact they can be hard to write. How much do I want to divulge about the book without giving too much away? I can imagine it would be even more difficult to write a review in only four sentences, but you did a great job. I definitely plan to check out this book. Thanks.


    1. I always enjoy your reviews, Abbie. I agree they can be a problem. I always want to write a junior-high book report– this happened, and then this, and then this… And then I try to make it more complicated that it is. I found that if I pack the sentences, I can get a lot in. I wish I could have told more, though, because the stories about cleaning house for different people are delightful. Even if the job usually wasn’t. Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve never gotten out of graduate school mode, both the writing and the suffering over it. If I can’t say something positive, though, I don’t review. No matter what I think of a book, the author wrote it and got it published, and that’s an accomplishment, and if I don’t like it, I keep my mouth shut. At least in print and in public.


    1. I hope you like it. When I like a book I sometimes get carried away, but with this one, I think carried away is justified. It’s different from Bird by Bird–Peacock doesn’t have Lamott’s sense of humor–but it’s personal contains some good observations about the writing life. I admit that at first I was more interested in the stories about housecleaning, but she relates each one to writing.


    1. I understand that nature. My thesis adviser told me to write 100 pages, cover to cover–said I would get 6 semester hours of credit for it and I should do 6 semester hours of work. It turned out to be 200 pages cover to cover. He was happy with it but told my office mate that he’d been worried I would never stop.


  2. Four sentences is a really big challenge. You did well, I could never do a review in four sentences. I feel compelled to comment on aspects of the writing, how it made me feel, the unexpected twists, etc.


    1. Me, too, S.J. Looking through the book again, I realized how much more I wanted to say, and how much I had to leave out. The stories about housecleaning were interesting, and Peacock was so skillful moving from each one into observations on her experience as a writer. But with only four sentences…


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