Friday, 20 March 2009

Review: Instructions not included, by Charlotte Moerman

The cover of this book made me want to read it. It reminded me of the cover of Petite Anglaise which, like Instructions not included, is a book by a blogger. The fact that it was a book by a fellow parent blogger also made me want to read it. So I was going into it with a positive bias (unlike reading Myleene Klass’ My Bump and Me, which I was expecting to dislike). Which makes it all the more disappointing that I didn’t like it very much.

The problem, I realise, is that I would have enjoyed the book had I read it in blog form, but it did not really work as a coherent narrative. There were lots of jumps in time (which, of course, work from blog post to blog post) between her first pregnancy, current day and various points in between, which almost always jarred. There were also a lot of little sections of humour or parody or metaphor, each of which I would probably have lapped up as an individual blog post but which, by the end of the book I was skimming over completely.

One example is ‘New Mums Meeting New Mums – Advice & Tips Centre’, about a fifth of the way into the book, which has some useful tips and some humour that will hit home with most mums. In fact, I wrote a blog post myself about the horrors of meeting new mum friends and this reminded me of it and added to my growing feeling that the book felt too much like a blog.

My only other experience of a blogger’s book is the afore-mentioned Petite Anglaise, written by La Petite Anglaise, which I loved. I think the main difference is that that book came across as a book in itself; while based on reality, it read more like a fast-paced chick-lit novel than a memoir (perhaps because of the location and the nature of some of the events). Instructions not included, on the other hand read like it had been packaged from a collection of blog posts (not having been a follower of her blog, I don’t know if that is actually the case), which is one of the dangers of blog to book deals, I think.

There are some fantastic writers in the blogosphere who should be writing books, especially the parenting blogosphere, but you can read them in blog form already. Any book deal really needs to ensure that the book will be new material. What you’re getting from a blogger is a guarantee that they can write, but not necessarily that they can write book-length prose.

So, while I won’t be recommending the book itself, I will be following Charlotte Moerman’s blog, because she has some very amusing insights into being a mother in this day and age, which I think I will enjoy on the more sporadic basis of reading them in blog form.

Mother at large and Pewari have also reviewed this book, with somewhat more positive responses, so make sure read their reviews as well. I am only one person!


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  2. I enjoyed your review. Yes, the blog to book transition must be a difficult one.