Surely there’s been some mistake…

Hello you lovely readers. It feels like a while since we last had a chat which didn’t revolve around me going OMG BOOKS THIS ONE IS GREAT READ IT NOW.

It is still book-related though. You looked nervous. Maybe a little concerned?[1]

So, I’ve read a lot of books recently[2]. Mostly they’ve been really good, but every now and again you get a book where some little detail jumps out at you and jars you out of the story. I’ve had a few over the years, and often wondered what to do about it.

Do I mention it in the review? Should I drop a note to the author? The publisher? Do they even care at this point? After all, the book is out in the wide world, and they’re unlikely (or indeed unable) to fix it at this point.

Case in point – I was reading a book recently which was set in London, but one of the characters came from Yorkshire. The book continued, and it transpired that the character in question came from Sandal & Agbrigg.

Whoa. That’s near where I live. Like, really near. Literally[3] around the corner from my house.

The trouble is that Sandal & Agbrigg isn’t a place. Well, it is, but it’s a train station, between Sandal and, you’ve guessed it, Agbrigg. You’d either say you lived in Sandal, or you lived in Agbrigg, but you’d never say that you’re from Sandal and Agbrigg. Sandal’s that side of the train line, Agbrigg is the other, more or less.

I can see[4] what the author has done – they’ve taken a map of Wakefield, picked a place at random and thought ‘great! A nice little suburb, that’d be perfect for this character’s backstory.’

It’s a tiny, tiny detail, and one which will only be picked up by people who know the area really well[5]. Doesn’t affect the overall story in the slightest, but jarred with me. It’s like seeing a TV show set in your city but the characters turn left down a street and end up on the wrong side of town. You can’t get *there* from *there*, it’s just not how the roads are set up. Or in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves where Robin arrives at Dover, takes a short lunchbreak and Hadrian’s Wall (boy, was he lost) then home to Nottingham in time for tea.

Worth mentioning to the author? Who can say. Thoughts welcome!

[1] Yes, this is a tortuous Princess Bride reference. You win ONE MILLION POINTS. Well done.
[2] Occupational hazard of being a #bookblogger, I guess
[3] Actually literally.
[4] Well, I can assume what they’ve done
[5] Or live literally round the corner

Author: dave

Book reviewer, occasional writer, photographer, coffee-lover, cyclist, spoon carver and stationery geek.

4 thoughts on “Surely there’s been some mistake…”

  1. I would definitely tell the author. When I’m reading a book set in a place I know, this kind of inaccuracy makes the whole story lose credibility for me. It has happened with books set in Edinburgh, where the details would be so easy to check with google or streetview and it has affected my enjoyment of the book. Great, thought-provoking post, Dave.

  2. It depends. It depends. It depends!

    I know one author who solicits corrections on his blog before new editions. I emailed another about what I saw as glitches in his book (self pubbed in HB and e) – he accepted one point (a contradiction about the date a road opened… just call me Mr Pedant) but said another was, in effect, a feature not a bug. Fair enough.

    On the whole, I wouldn’t pass on to author/ publisher/ etc unless I had good reason to think they wanted to know. And I wouldn’t mention in the review unless it was so bad, or there were so many, it undermined the story, ( I did this once in an Amazon review where the book was simply littered with howlers – so much so it put me off the author for life).

  3. I read a book over a year a go now that had one tiny little niggling detail that still bothers me! It was a review copy, and I didn’t telly a soul, and I’m still not sure whether that was the right thing to do! I’m not sure that this helps you at all, but at least you’re not alone!

  4. Oooh. Tough one. Thing is, if you don’t tell the author (nicely & probably privately) as a blogger, some other reader (pillock) will happily point it out to them at length in an Amazon review along with all the minutiae of what they got wrong and why in an overly condescending tone designed to cause maximum embarrassment. In their head anyway.

    If you say something and the author decides they don’t care or it was deliberate, you’ve lost nothing. If they change it you may have saved the world from one more dickbrained and pointless critical review.

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