The measure of success . . .

I’m currently reading Water for Elephants and I have mixed feelings about it. I think it’s a well-crafted story, but the sex scenes and violence bother me. They’re probably true to the time and the setting, I just don’t like ’em. I also have a VERY hard time reading about cruelty to animals.

Regardless, it’s an interesting story and Sara Gruen seems to have found the golden ticket. The book made the NYT’s bestseller list and the movie version of the book is coming out soon starring Robert Pattison and Reese Witherspoon. I don’t think anyone could argue against Gruen’s success.

Except some people hated the book. I checked Amazon and of a little more than 2,500 reviews 84% were four and five-star, 7% were mediocre three-star and 9% were stinky one and two-star. So about one out of every ten readers really didn’t like the book. I read some of the reviews and there were good points including a really interesting review by a large-animal vet who pointed out valid flaws (or lack of research) dealing with veterinary medicine.

So, what I’m wondering is, if you make the bestseller list and your novel is made into a major motion picture, does the 10% still bother you? At what point does success drown out the booing?

Categories: Uncategorized


  1. As a reader making a book-buying decision I also read the negative reviews. However, my feeling is there are always going to be readers who just don’t connect with the book, so I don’t let that stop me. However, if I start reading about editorial issues (continuity problems, coincidences, bad grammar and typos, and on and on), I stop right there. Life is too short to cread a book that’s been poorly (or not at all) edited.

    • Oh yes! Evenly poorly written can be more tolerable than poorly edited. I’ve been tempted to red ink library books for the benefit of the next reader (but I didn’t do it!).

  2. You two are so funny! Jamie, I laughed out loud when I read your first post with the typo. Also funny that I went back and read Gruen’s first book and was amazed at the number of typos in it. Sarah, I was hunting for a red pencil after the first couple of chapters. Also, I found it difficult to believe the same woman wrote both books. So diversely different except for the fact that they both had that hard to put down quality of storytelling. I’m not sure I would want to see the movie of Water For Elephants due to the sex and violence, but I’m very curious about the filming of the animal’s running amok toward the end. Sarah: did you see the end coming? I was surprised that I did not (while wondering all along why she used the “flashback” method. Do you know who plays the older version of the main character in the movie? The book for me that my “boos” did drown out others love of a book was Lovely Bones.

  3. Hahahahahahahah. It’s early, and Gerry hadn’t brought me cuppa yet, so I was functioning on no caffeine. 🙂

    Funny, though: I loved both Water for Elephants (read an advance copy before it became a best-seller) and The Lovely Bones. And I’m talkin’ loved with a love pure and true. It just goes to show that different people connect with different books for different reasons…and thank God for that, no?

  4. Sarah, I think yes, it would bother me if some people didn’t like my book. I mean, we’re only human, right? On the other hand, I take healthy pride in my work, and in the fact that I didn’t sacrifice my morals, beliefs, or take-away message just so it would appeal more strongly to whatever trend is popular at the moment. (For me, that’s where success would drown out the boos. Knowing I’d written something that was pleasing to me AND the Lord.) Our internal barometer is much more important than others’ external finger pointing.

    I haven’t read Water for Elephants yet, though I did gaze over it the other day at a major retail chain. Hope Robert Pattison plays the good guy role!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s