A stunning review of Evie Woolmore’s The Salt Factory

Author Alan Skinner posted this review of Evie Woolmore‘s novel The Salt Factory on Goodreads. His review – like his books – is worth reading, for its diligence and honesty. And if you ever review books, his blend of the personal and the objective is a style worth evoking.

The line between fantasy and magical realism is not a thin one. Between the two lies a huge gulf filled with literary conventions, belief and, most of all, the difference between suspension of belief and the creation of belief. Evie Woolmore may well disagree but magical realism is about the fantastic seen within the ordinary rather than jostling for room beside it. Marquez, the greatest of all the so-called magical realism novelists, elevated the ordinary into the magical rather than forcing the ordinary to give way to the magical. Woolmore respects that though her brand of magical realism is less flighty than that of Marquez or Borges.

The Salt Factory by Evie WoolmoreIn the Salt Factory, Evie Woolmore deftly teases out the fantastic. It is, perhaps, more mystical than magical but she has a sure grasp of her spirit, never letting it slide into the mundane and facile supernatural. While we might guess where she is going, the trip there is what matters, not the arrival.

It is best that I make clear my interest in writing this review. To say I am writing this review only because I liked the book would be to state only half the truth and since the unspoken half could unfairly damage the credibility of the review, it is best to come clean.

Last year, Evie, as reviewer for Awesome Indies and her own book review blog, Allonym Books, produced a very generous review of one of my books. Now, I detest the practice of cross reviews, where authors make a pact to review each other’s books. Readers deserve more honesty and transparency than that. It never occurred to me to to even read one of Evie’s books, let alone review it. I rarely write reviews being far too self-centred to think that any books but mine deserve to be reviewed, and far too busy working on new ones to be distracted. Yet, the intelligence and literary grace of Evie’s review piqued my curiosity and I found myself buying The Salt Factory.

So, you’ll just have to take my word for it that this is not a tit-for-tat thank you, or part of a bargain made with another author. If I was to bargain away my soul, believe me, I would side with Faust and ask for a much higher price than a review. My soul is worth at least the guarantee of a best-seller, most likely several, with an unusually inspiring Muse thrown in for insurance.

This is a well-written book. Its measured prose flows easily and treads confidently between exposition and description. The book unwinds itself around you. We often talk of a book as being a page-turner as if that were some automatic measure of value but it seems to me that the page you can’t bear to leave is a better mark of a well-written book. The reader should want to remain with, to to linger over, each page, rather than rush past it to see the next one. And that is the type of book Evie has written; the well-written page-lingerer, like the novels of Henry James.

That is not to say that it plods or is dull. It has a compelling storyline that moves along briskly enough with only one or two brief and barely noticeable quiet spots. And its main protagonist, Thelonia Jones, is an intriguing and unusual creation: a English-born, gunslinging US marshall not afraid to be masculine but not compelled to be so. Children and adolescents may well like and need kick-ass heroines but feisty, independent and smart ones like Thelonia serve adults better.

Disconnection and displacement are obviously important and interesting themes to Woolmore for they loom large in the book. In fact, it is a book populated by the disconnected or those connected to the wrong people or places, almost like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that is pulled apart, shuffled and re-assembled. When Woolmore gradually pushes the pieces back together, we realise that the landscape actually hasn’t changed at all but that we’re just looking at it from a different horizon.

It isn’t a deeply profound book but it does’t set out to be. It is a reflective, thoughtful, intriguing book. There’s a mystery at its heart but it isn’t a whodunnit. I’m not even 100% sure there’s a defined solution. I know I came to my own, one that satisfied me, but perhaps it isn’t the same one as Woolmore intended. It doesn’t matter; she only wrote it. I read it. And it worked for me.

*****

Evie Woolmore’s The Salt Factory is available from all Amazon sites. And if you want to try before you buy, you can read an extract here.

A terrific review of Evie Woolmore’s The Salt Factory

The Salt Factory by Evie Woolmore“Evocative, gorgeously written, this haunting tale of discovery will have you madly page turning until the wee hours.”

What more could you want from a book? allonymbooks’ fellow spiritual novelist Leigh Podgorski has reviewed Evie Woolmore’s latest novel, The Salt Factory, on Amazon and Goodreads, and she obviously really loved it! She gave it five stars and her review captures perfectly the essence of the book. She didn’t receive a review copy from us, so her opinion is genuinely impartial and honest.

If you want to see what all the fuss is about,  why she thinks that the heroine Thelonia Jones is a ‘perfectly realized Victorian heroine’ and how the ‘ethereal characters…give the novel its luminescence and sheen’ then read an extract of the book, and find out more about Evie’s three magical realist novels. Or better still, go to Amazon and buy a copy for yourself!

A loss of independence? Goodreads by Amazon

Everyone seems to have been taken by surprise by the announcement that Goodreads is being taken over by Amazon, and generally there seems to be concern about Amazon taking over the world of online bookselling. The Authors’ Guild’s observation that it is a “truly devastating act of vertical integration” has not found complete agreement, but this blog is, unsurprisingly, more concerned with how the change is going to affect indie authors.

As many readers of this blog may have discovered for themselves, Amazon has an erratic and somewhat ruthless approach to the way reviews are posted for indie books. That this scrutiny was probably triggered by the fake reviews scandal last year shows that this is not a situation unique to indie authors, but it does seem that reviews of indie-authored books are scrutinised much more closely than those from print publishers. Certainly anecdotal evidence gathered at allonymbooks indicates that indie authors do find reviews of their books just disappearing.

From an indie point of view, Goodreads represented a safe haven, as it were, where there were strong forum communities supporting and interested in indie books. Being reader-driven it was perceived as free-standing of commercial interest from any individual bookseller, providing as it did links to B&N and other retailers as well as Amazon for book purchases, and it has done well in the past to promote a sense that reading, the enjoyment of books, and the sharing of reading experiences are its paramount goals. One presumes that those other retailer links will go in due course, as Amazon is hardly likely to want that option available. And so, one fears, might the perception of that not only is the site free-standing, but also that its aim is to share the enjoyment of books. It would be very sad if it became a marketplace, where the loudest shouters win the customers, for Goodreads has up to now managed to keep that small community/big community Continue reading