Everyone’s a Critic

Yesterday, I was researching a Dickens passage for another post I’m working on, and went to Amazon.com to see if I could “search inside this book” for Great Expectations. Much to my amusement, I noticed that out of 260 reviews, it had only received four (out of five) stars.

Great Expectations is a classic, assigned to generations of high school students on the strength of its literary merit. Dickens’ thirteenth novel, it was first published in 1860 as a newspaper serial. The hardcover edition was released in July of 1861, and enjoyed immense popularity at home and abroad. 149 years later, it has never gone out of print, and has been adapted for stage and screen nineteen times.

Of its Amazon reviewers, 129 gave it five stars, 61 four stars, 25 three stars, 18 two stars, and 27 one star. Curious as to the calibre of the one star ratings, I clicked on the first, entitled, “One of the Worst Books I Have Ever Read.”

Interestingly, the critic suggests that he/she might have liked the story, had it not been for the poor quality of the writing — specifically, Dickens’ irrelevant descriptions of trees and rivers. As a result of this and other intellectual tedium, the writer confesses to not actually having finished the book, convinced (although claiming to have seen the movie) that nothing worthwhile would take place. If fact, the first chapter was deemed to be so terrible that the critic recommends no one even attempt to read it. (3 out of 9 people found this review helpful.)

The moral of this story is that no matter how well you think your manuscript is written or how clever the plot, or how many of your beta readers/critique partners think it is worthy of five stars, someone is always going to hate it.

Don’t worry – you’re in good company.




Charles Dickens – Gad’s Hill Place

BBC Historic Figures

Penguin.com (USA)



Filed under Critical Thinking, Miscellaneous, Reading, Recommended Reading, Uncategorized, Writing

8 responses to “Everyone’s a Critic

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Everyone’s a Critic « Layinda's Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. The old adage – ‘You can’t please everyone’, most certainly rings true here. It’s sad in a way that these people couldn’t recognize beautiful prose. Dickens will always be timeless. (Hugs)Indigo

  3. That’s a great story! Some people can’t see past different writing styles to see the story itself. Fashion changes, but talent holds up pretty well too! 🙂

  4. This was so interesting…thank you!

  5. Great post! Interestingly the critic FR Leavis wrote in 1948 that Dickens lacked the seriousness and formal control to be a great novelist. (He did retract this later…)
    I think when we get unfavourable critiques we need to take a consensus from a few readers. A bad review from just one reader may simply be a bad match for that type of novel.

  6. thelisas

    Yes, but what does it mean when ones own mother calls her a talentless hack? Okay, so it wasn’t quite that severe, but still…Several re-writes later have moved up to “better.” Looking forward to “not bad.” 😉

  7. What was someone who doesn’t like long descriptive passages doing reading Dickens in the first place?

  8. So true…YA author Amy Kathleen Ryan has done a wonderful little film clip about Amazon Reader Reviews that makes me laugh out loud every time I see it. I posted it on my own blog last week:


    You can also find it directly on You Tube.

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