Why Critique These Books?


unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt

If you listen to us, you’ve probably noticed that we like to dive deep into the All Souls Trilogy. We like to pick scenes apart, line-by-line–sometimes even word-by-word. We love to do that kind of close reading and it brings us great joy. It does, however, raise the occasional question from our listeners–namely, why critique these books? Doesn’t this approach to reading fiction lessen your enjoyment of novels? Does it change your relationship with the books?

The answer is both yes, and no.

Here’s why we take the approach that we do:

  1. We love these books. We believe that the All Souls Trilogy is a rich text full of meaning – we return to these books again and again, for entertainment, for history, for humor, for tragedy, and for love. This story–and these characters–are our friends.
  2. We believe that these books matter. That sounds glib, I know–but hear me out. Jen and I believe that the stories we tell are important. Stories are one of the most important ways that we relate to each other and the world around us. Stories teach us lessons, they bring us joy, they allow us to empathize, and they help us explore and test ideas. The All Souls Trilogy, like all great stories, allows us to do all of these things and more.
  3. We believe that these books have inherent value. We believe that the books of the All Souls Trilogy have both popular and literary merit. The story–and the writing–are well-crafted, and they both deserve and stand up to a hard, close scrub of the text. They can handle our criticism alongside our enthusiasm. We promise.
  4. We believe in the value of stories by and about women. Jen and I believe that stories told by and about women are socially, morally, and ethically important. From anecdotal experience, we also believe that many female readers are socialized to believe that their stories are less important, less literary, and less worthy of serious study. We have watched female readers dismiss their stories–their romances, their fantasies, their films, their TV series–as guilty pleasures. We think that’s tragic. The stories our listeners love are no less worthy of serious critique and thought that stories told by and about men. We’d like to be able to show our listeners that a story they love–a fantasy, sci-fi, historical romance epic about family and identity–is a meaningful story with real weight.
  5. We think it’s fun. We love scrubbing the stories we consume–even when that means showing them some tough love. We believe that drilling down on the parts of the story that don’t work for us creates space for the beautiful parts to shine. We love to interrogate an author’s choices and discover the reasons why parts of the story work, or don’t work for us. We love to celebrate what works and pick apart what doesn’t.
  6. It adds to our enjoyment of the books. I, for one, am even more excited about the upcoming release of the TV show after giving A Discovery of Witches a really close, hard look. I cannot wait to see what the Bad Wolf team did to adapt, strengthen, and present this incredible story.

If you’d like to learn more, check out our page of resources for your inner literary critic.

We hope that you enjoy our podcast and our approach to this story. If you have thoughts, questions, or concerns, please feel free to get in touch with us at chamomileandclovecast@gmail.com or via Facebook.

Happy listening!


Cait & Jen