We all do it don’t we? You cannot help comparing books to other books; it is how we gage what we think of them after all. You need to read some duds, or a few ‘meh’ ones, in order to work out what you like and what you don’t even when the books couldn’t be further apart – for example tonight I will be recording the third episode of Hear, Read This! and will probably end up comparing Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Marina with Ursula le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness to make various points. Those two book are around 30 years apart in publishing and have two very different audiences in mind because of their genres. Comparisons will be made though. Yet in the industry there seems to be this need, which is know is marketing, for books to be compared to other books and I sometimes wonder if this helps or hinders those books?
An example of this would be my thoughts/review of The Silent Wife yesterday. Throughout the review I couldn’t help but allude and compare it to Gone Girl because that is what the quotes do and that is how the publishers are pushing it. In many ways this completely makes sense as a) Flynn’s book was huge last year and people are always looking for the next ‘x’ author b) there are some similarities between the two books – as I discussed. Yet this can also be slightly detrimental as not only might a reader have certain expectations that aren’t fulfilled can leave them feeling less favourable or indeed with the hype of the amazing book it was compared to give a reader such high expectations it could fall because of them. For me the Gone Girl comparison got me to read The Silent Wife but my expectations were massive because of it. The book may, who can say for sure, have done better with me if I had just read it as a thriller, simple as that.
Gone Girl is a very specific example yet currently it perfectly highlights this trend. Not only are lots of books for 2014 coming with the tagline in the press release along the lines of ‘a thriller with more twists than Gone Girl’ and ‘a literary novel that will appeal to fans of Gone Girl for its twists’ (those are two word for word examples) but also I have noticed that some books coming out next year don’t mention Gone Girl but have its look. For example (see below) the stunning cover of Peter Swanson’s The Girl With A Clock For A Heart, which arrived this morning and I am very excited about, it doesn’t say Gone Girl anywhere on it but the imagery is there, just a touch but there nonetheless. This happened with Twilight and even a Bronte got an apple on the cover.
The other problem with this is at the opposite end of the spectrum. I know lots of people who loathed Gone Girl (the crazy fools) and who if see a book that looks like it or is said to be like it makes them veer away as fast as possible, possibly missing a trick. I remember seeing many a book with ‘the next Stieg Larsson’ and thinking ‘well I definitely won’t be reading that then’ and almost cutting my nose of to spite my face as I might have missed out on Yrsa Sigurdardottir, who regulars here will know I love, because she was referred to as ‘Iceland’s answer to Stieg Larsson’.
It is a tricky one though because what do I want to hear people saying? The only one I can think of is the commonly used, and therefore highly unoriginal, quote of ‘a new and original voice’. Poor publishers, they can’t win can they bless them. Food for thought though isn’t it? Which books have you read because they have been compared to a book you loved and how did they compare? Have you ever avoided a book because of another it was compared to and if so what?