Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Fatal Likeness, by Lynn Shepherd

A Fatal Likeness
Author: Lynn Shepherd
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: August 20, 2013

Source: Edelweiss, NetGalley

Never trust a writer who doesn't read. Lynn Shepherd has gotten a lot of attention lately for her anti-J.K. Rowling rant on HuffPost, but the part of her whiny, attention-seeking article that stands out the most is when she proudly declares she's "never read a word" of Rowling's work.

Moans Shepherd:

"I've never read a word (or seen a minute) so I can't comment on whether the books were good, bad or indifferent. I did think it a shame that adults were reading them (rather than just reading them to their children, which is another thing altogether), mainly because there's so many other books out there that are surely more stimulating for grown-up minds. But, then again, any reading is better than no reading, right?"

I just can't with this attitude. She goes out of her way to chastise people for reading Rowling, and to chastise Rowling for existing at all--a complaint that revolves almost entirely around her belief that nobody is reading her own books because Rowling somehow stole all the readers away--yet she refuses to read any of the books? And the "any reading is better than no reading" comment implies that she thinks the majority of people who read Harry Potter would not otherwise be reading anything, like we all just don't know any better, barely literate as we all must be (which really just means she thinks we should all be reading her books).

I first started reading Harry Potter many years ago, not because of the "overblown media hype" as Shepherd insists, but almost despite it. I was skeptical of the popular series, but was urged by co-workers and friends to give it a try, almost to the point that they pressed their copies into my hands and insisted I would love it. Soon I'd find myself doing the very same thing with other friends who had not yet read the series, many of whom became big fans themselves. And so it went the world over, Harry Potter becoming a global phenomenon not just because of "hype" but because of massive amounts of word-of-mouth recommendations from people who had read the books and loved them. J.K. Rowling isn't like Charles Dickens. People don't have copies of her books on their shelves that they've bought but never read. J.K. Rowling is successful because people read her books. Full stop.

Did I read Lynn Shepherd's book, A Fatal Likeness? Yes, I did, though I was sorely tempted to follow the lead of so many other readers on Goodreads and Amazon who gave it scathing reviews that started with Shepherd's own words, "I've never read a word..." But I, unlike Shepherd, am a reader. I judge things I read based on HAVING READ THEM. Though in this case I'll admit it's difficult not to be swayed by Shepherd's own deplorable behaviour as an author when judging her book. Like I said, I don't trust a writer who is proud of criticizing something she refuses to read.

A Fatal Likeness is an interesting story told in a lacklustre way. The lives of Lord Byron, Percy Blysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley have long fascinated me, but Shepherd adds little to the conversation. The story itself is the star (which frankly you could learn by spending an hour on Wikipedia). The "artistic license" that Shepherd takes isn't all that interesting, and it certainly isn't all that well-written. 

Nobody is going to be pressing copies of A Fatal Likeness into your hand and insisting that you must read this. Nobody. Well, except Lynn Shepherd maybe. But she'd probably snipe at you for all the other books you have on your bookshelf first then leave in a huff. Stay classy, Lynn Shepherd.

More about this book:

Even before I read the author's Huffington Post piece, I was aware of this book and had it on my TBR pile for months. I had a digital review copy from both NetGalley and Edelweiss, though I must admit I kept getting it confused for another book (also in my TBR pile). Can you guess why?

My Notorious Life by Madame X, by Kate Manning
A Fatal Likeness, by Lynn Shepherd

That's My Notorious Life by Madame X, by Kate Manning (later to be shortened to just My Notorious Life) on the left and A Fatal Likeness, by Lynn Shepherd (also published as A Treacherous Likeness) on the right. Notice anything? (I bet J.K. Rowling never has this problem.)

Philosopher's Stone
Chamber of Secrets
Prisoner of Azkaban
Goblet of Fire
Order of the Phoenix

1 comment:

  1. I was about to write a very different review for this title but then I read Lynn Shepherd's now famous piece about J.K. Rowling and it was impossible not to be affected by it. I was still half way through A Fatal Likeness when I read her essay in The Huffington Post so it coloured the way I read the rest of her book. Try as I might not to have been influenced by the author's words and opinions, I felt Ms. Shepherd went out of her way to invite the comparison so I couldn't ignore it. Unlike Ms. Shepherd of course, I have read BOTH her book AND J.K. Rowling's books. This review isn't directly comparing their writing styles, of course, but it is influenced by the knowledge that the author, Lynn Shepherd, is the sort of writer who will publicly criticize another writer while proudly proclaiming she has "never read a word."


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