Kristen Haynie's Reviews > Letters to a Young Novelist

Letters to a Young Novelist by Mario Vargas Llosa
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's review
Feb 23, 2012

it was ok

This book wasn't at all what I expected.

It is literally a sequence of letters written to unknown from unknown (possibly the author, but who knows?). The first letter is nice because it is an interesting analytical piece about why writers write. It was basically a psychological explanation of the human need to create stories.

The second letter was also interesting, because it was the first of many to break down different writing techniques. The author of the letters points out sly ways in which writers make their fictional stories believable to readers.

While there were some very interesting and educational parts in this book, I was nearly bored to tears by the rest of it. In my opinion, the author of these letters spends way too much time on examples of the techniques that are picked apart in the letters. Sometimes the examples were pulled from well-known classics, in which case the examples enrich the explanation. Most of the time, though, examples are pulled from obscure (often Spanish) novels that no one has ever heard of. This wouldn't be such a problem if the author didn't spend so much time explaining the novel in such detail. I think it was unnecessary. He could have just pulled and analyzed a small excerpt from these novels, instead of explaining the whole plot.

But then again, this book wasn't written with readers in mind. It is evident that the author of these letters was writing to someone whom he assumed has read the books he talks about.

On the other hand, there's a lot to be learned here. The writing techniques and devices the author talks about are only discussed on a very basic level, but it's still very interesting.

WARNING: If you happen to come across a section where the author starts talking about a book you haven't yet read, but are intending to read, skip it! Reading it will ruin the book for you, because of the extreme detail in which the story is described.
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