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