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The Summer House

One of the suggestions for a strong novel is to limit the number of point of views (POV) that you use to tell your story. Traditionally, books are written from one POV and I would say the majority of books today still are. However, I have always found this strategy to be limiting, for you only ever hear the story from one perspective and as they always say, there are two sides to every story, especially when it comes to a love story. But then again, we are told to write what we know, so I suspect that most authors shy away from providing a voice they feel they have no access to. Needless to say, I disobeyed the rule, and for the part of my novel that focuses on events surrounding a love story, I have tried to provide perspectives from both parties involved.

The Summer House is a wonderful historical read, well researched to the point where it reads like memory recall (write what you know), providing an intimate look at life during WWII in England, including London during the Blitz. Mary Nichols provides a level of detail which allows a really comprehensive understanding of the impact that the war had on the English people which I have not read in another novel, though I by NO means profess to have read many novels set during WWII. The Summer House provided a broad sketch of the major events and timelines in an easy to read, engaging novel, instead of just focusing on one aspect of the war.

A useful study this novel provided for me, was the whole issue of POV, as it provided a good demonstration of what the naysayers mean when they say that too many POVs can weaken a novel. Ms Nichols had many characters in her novel, which is one thing, but then she choose to present at least 8 POVs at last count which I found very distracting and left me wondering whether we really needed to know what was going on in the heads of that many people. It had the effect of elevating the importance of side stories and minor characters which then distracted from the main characters, to the point where I wondered if I really knew who the main characters were.

The second rule of thumb was also broken, in that ‘they’ say that if you do feel the need to provide multiple POVs, make sure that you provide a strong break between voices, such as chapter break or at the very least a section break. This devise was not well followed in this novel, with frequent instances when POV jumped from one character to the next with no obvious break in the narrative, such that you had to pull up to figure out whose head you had jumped into seemingly at random. Even in the instances when there was a section break, the fact that there were so many characters whose POVs were being provided, there was no rhyme or reason as to why the switch was made from one perspective to another. It made what should have been an easy enjoyable read a sometimes frustrating experience but one which demonstrated to me the importance of controlling POV.  Notwithstanding this weakness, I would recommend the Summer House as a good read.


One comment on “POV

  1. Wow – you’d hooked me on this book’s premise until you mentioned the 8 POVs. I enjoy multiple view points, and it’s a popular trend right now, but without having read The Summer House, I wonder how an author can pull it off without weakening characterization.


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