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on 29 August 2017
I have to admit I've only got as far as 40% into this book (on Kindle) and I can't take any more. I hoped it would be an engaging read which would point out how to think as a writer when reading someone else's good (or bad) prose. It doesn't. It takes apart sentences, paragraphs and sections in the most preachy, pedantic and unfriendly language imaginable. The examples are either 19th century Russian classicists or American authors with whom anyone outside of the USA may not be that familiar. The rules of language have changed over the last 150 years or so, so it shouldn't surprise Ms Prose to realise that modern publishers would not be so keen to promote a paragraph lasting more than a page. Ms Prose quotes extensively from more modern American writers she likes, many of whom I hadn't heard of, let alone read, so it was difficult to get a connection with the subject matter, let alone the point she was trying to make. Having read other reviews, all I can say is that I'm sorry I don't share the views of others. I found this book pedantic, boring and ultimately, unhelpful.
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on 13 July 2017
This is a truly amazing book: it is one of the very best ‘how to write’ books I have read. Perhaps the title should mention it. The writing is clear and simple. Using excerpts from great books (and a lot from Chekhov), topic by topic (dialogue, setting, characters etc.), the author points out how great writers tackle each one of these topics. The author highlights their technical skills and what they have achieved. One learns how to analyse and appreciate much better any book one reads. For the writer, I don’t think it is disheartening to discover how incredibly well crafted and hard to achieve masterpieces are. It is a real pleasure to dissect them. This book will inspire any book lover. As for aspiring writers, it doesn’t hurt to aim for the stars. SWEET SUGAR
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on 7 January 2014
I've lingered over the rating for this book. Is it truly a 5 or rightly a 4 star? I've plumped for the former on the basis that there is a universal, albeit less popular truth here. Sometimes, slow is good.

We live in a throw away world increasingly dominated by speed. No time to write or punctuate so 'txt spk rls'...convenience of time over content so if it's fast it must be good. Not always so.

I'm an avid reader. Now, mostly for pleasure but previously I'd acquired fast/speed reading skills to assimilate large amounts of work related text. Mostly dry, policy related documents or technical background data. Speed reading is great for that; skim the whole, identify and absorb the salient bits, move over the rest.

The principles explored here turn a number of concepts on their head. Like a fine or good wine, reading is something to be savoured not gulped. Reading for pleasure should be an emotive experience where words reach into the soul. Even a simple sentence can strike a chord. This book encourages the reader to step back, slow down and think. What was the author trying to achieve? What are they saying? How are they saying it?

In part it took me back some years to a time where an exam book was almost a line by line dissection of any narrative text. Clinical but thought provoking. This book examines similar principles in a more productive and positive way. As a reader, I found it affirming, helpful and instructive. I've often resisted fast reading for pleasure and this book confirms what may be missed and why. For writers, there's a whole different perspective on how to truly engaged with readers.

Really enjoyed the content and the easy but not patronising approach so it's a 5 star winner for that.
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on 6 June 2015
The author makes a point that you must read books slowly in order to derive the real benefit and understand the hidden meaning, which is so very important. This may be a valid point, however, it is one I found essential when reading this book, in order to be able to extract the gems from the author's guidance, which proved rather difficult to find. There are references to great classics and the author talks about each and every one of them with passion, recounting life experiences, but it feels more like a philosophical review. Nevertheless, I did find some information contained therein, some of which I knew and some I did not.
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on 3 February 2018
Some points are interesting in this book. I thought the intro was good, got me hooked, but the rest of the contents bored and patronized me. I struggle to see who this book was aimed at; writers, a study guide for school/college students or someone just telling me what she thought was good fiction?
As stated, not all bad. Good tips now and then. But I won't be referring back to this in a hurry.
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on 9 October 2013
Fantastic book, true to its name which gets straight to the point, filled with very helpful tips in getting the most of your reading experience. Reading it seems is similar to driving cars! As we get better we seem to drive faster which makes us oblivious to the obstacles somehow. Reading can induce a similar habit of reading too fast, which results in less absorption of the context or and flow of the book in our hands. Personally, I am facing a very real issue of reading too fast, an acquired habit I am desperately trying to change. Hopefully this book can result in motivating this change in me which I know will not be easy.
The book is also filled with other tips to improve writing skills as well as various different styles to help improve writing. Very nice and helpful book, but not entirely sure most of the tips will be that useful to the writers in Britain though.

I plan to use this book as a reference for my next writing venture.
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on 15 February 2013
Definitely not your average how to write book, but the snippets from the work of great writers along with Francine Prose's analysis are very inspiring - like being back at school and having a great English teacher. I have rushed to download several books for my Kindle that I would otherwise never have considered nowadays - Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea, for example - and really enjoyed them. Brings back a love for language and admiration for the skill of the best writers. It does focus exclusively on language and literary fiction, as opposed to books that have other positive attributes but aren't as well written - such as being gripping, for example. So in terms of writing one's own work - this book is asking you to aim high - possibly unrealistically high. But perhaps there is nothing wrong with that.
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on 27 March 2013
Maybe I should have given it a 5 as the information and help are great and the chapters deal with clearly structured topics, just found it not quite so fluent to take in sometimes but that's probably just me. it was recommended by the leader of a creative writing group that I joined and I can see why. It's aimed at prose, fiction writing and uses lots of examples to show you. if you are starting out with any pretensions of being a writer or just to enjoy writing for yourself it's a good starting place. I want to do some travel writing and it helps with that as well in terms of technique, characters, structure and other useful topics.
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on 25 September 2013
This is a serious piece of work for anyone wanting to analyse writing, it raises questions such as the readability of a text, and how to form an opinion as to the success of different pieces of writing by studying the techniques used by the writer - which can be borne in mind when a writer produces his/her own work.
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on 21 April 2017
They say every budding writer should read, and read as much of what they can get their hands on, whether its a book they like or not. This book really gets to the heart of why a writer reads and how to get the most out of that reading in terms of honing their own writing skills
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