This is a bit of a whiny post as well as a back door book review, so apologies in advance, but stick with me.

Because of limited shelf space, I’ve started reading mostly digital. As I’ve said in the past, I’m not a fan of e-readers. But given the alternatives—limiting myself to what’s available at the library or not reading at all—the Kindle is without doubt the better option.

Recently I finished the Kindle version of The Girl Next Door by one of my favorite authors, Ruth Rendell. Chapter one was a joy, and I settled down for a brilliant read.

Chapter two arrived. Along with it, a horde of characters. The Girl Next Door, you see, boasts an ensemble cast. And what an ensemble it is! Less than 5% into the book, the reader is faced with sentences like:

“The Batchelors, Robert and George and Stanley and Moira—Norman was recovering from chicken pox—all went out into the fields, and Stanley took Nipper on the lead. Alan and Lewis and Bill were already out there…”

Please understand, this is just the first wave of primary characters. All of whom are up in years and come with children, grandchildren, spouses, friends, ex-spouses, parents, and business associates—each one named, each with baggage of his/her own.

Rendell is a masterful writer, and her characters are, as a rule, exquisitely drawn—but there are simply too many names here.

And remember, I’m reading digital. I can’t exactly thumb back and forth, refreshing my memory on this or that character. And before you ask, the Kindle’s search function is a bust. Repeated usage is awkward and takes me out of the story.

My solution was to draft a list with names and relationships to keep characters straight. I’m guessing most readers wouldn’t bother. Had the book been written by anyone other than Dame Rendell, I certainly wouldn’t have gone to the trouble.

The lesson of this post? Don’t do this to your readers, particularly if you are publishing digitally. Very, very frustrating. Baroness Rendell of Babergh CBE might be able to get away with combining fiction with a Name Your Baby book, but the rest of us? Not a chance.

 

Have you ever put down a book because it was too crowded?

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ANNOUNCEMENT
I will be away from the computer over the next couple weeks
celebrating, seeing wondrous things,
and generally having fun in the Southwest.
I look forward to seeing you back here 10/26/15.
Don’t let me down. 🙂

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