1367 readings


Jury Selection

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Dear friend, your message has been safely received. You asked for my opinion, so here it is.

Certain passages are well written, full of little details which bring realism to the narrative (generally speaking, you seem to have taken your inspiration largely from your own experience).
The Tunisian holiday, for example. One can follow the tribulations of the French couple in that three-star hotel with ease.
On the other hand, it is hard to accept all the criticisms made of the other tourists who have chosen this package tour: “idiot devotees of the all-inclusive and organised trips.” The couple is meant to stand out simply because they opted for half board. In my opinion, that is not enough to make them any more adventurous than the others.

I also think that at times the text lacks perspective, especially as far as those incidents in the school staffroom are concerned. One can sense that you have tried to create some suspense round about page fifty, and I can only encourage you in that endeavour, it might – one never knows – make the reader want to go on reading. But are we really desperate to know if the next management meeting will end up voting for the trip to Spain rather than the one to Italy?
The same holds true for the dispute between the teachers of classical languages (and all that long internal monologue about the meeting that was cancelled without anyone telling the narrator).
And then all those acronyms, that really  sound like the world of the French education system. Remember that the average readership will not know the difference between an HSE and an HSA (I can assure you).

I think you should have taken greater care with the minor characters. In fact, these are only used as a foil to cast the narrator in a favourable light.
The character of the husband is a bit of a cliché. He is certainly not attentive enough, but this is used rather too easily to justify the extra-marital adventures of the heroine.
Her colleagues are all mediocre; as for her friends, their only purpose seems to be to tell her how beautiful and talented she is (one example is the passage from “I walked onto the stage […]” to “[…] Chloé and Morgane, awestruck, applauded as if there were no tomorrow.”).

The style is not always meticulous; I think that when one is not yet an expert, it is preferable to keep to the timeless “subject-verb-complement”.
Avoid sentences that end in “or else” or even “really!”
You often repeat the same catchphrases. For example, I counted forty-two examples of “no big deal”. I realize that this is what gives your work its unique quality, but frankly, one doesn’t get the point; even Danielle Steel would never have dared this.

Finally, your text obviously lacks fluidity.
You have often told me your views on the division of a work into chapters, that you considered it too academic. All the same, I wonder if these eighty-five pages might not have benefited from a little more structure.
You also warned me that there would be long, repetitious passages, at the limit of comprehensibility, and that such logorrhea was intended to express the chaos of your unbridled thoughts. Well, it is indeed that. No doubt it’s a matter of taste.

Before I bring my commentary to an end, I should like to dwell a little on the “best friend”.
Firstly, I find that term rather childish to describe people who are almost in their forties.
Then, the character is portrayed as a dull, geeky person who spends her time having afternoon naps and drinking herbal tea. Moreover, the only reason for her existence seems to be to restrain the narrator in her exploration of the world. For example, that trip to London when the heroine wanted to go off to a pub with some punks she had met in the street, and her friend wanted to spend a bit more time in the museum of contemporary art.
I think it would be better if you were to omit this character completely.

You can delete her from your life at the same time.

On that note, I will say goodbye.
Your “best friend” has a lemon tea brewing.

Translated by Wendy Cross


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