I reviewed ‘Dust’ for RBRT.
This is a really tricky review to write, because this novel has real potential to be a beautiful, engaging and enjoyable read, and the writer also has the ability and talent to write well. However, the novel has been completely let down by the editing.
The novel tells the story of Austen, a woman dissatisfied by life, by her husband in particular, who needs to find out what she wants from life. She makes the brave decision to go and work on a ranch in Wyoming. This is a really interesting idea – there is potential for drama, humour, and an investigation into relationships, character and what makes people tick. I’m convinced the author is capable of this, as her characters are warm and could be developed into something really special. She obviously knows the places she is writing about and has a real love for those places and people, and this could all be made into a wonderful book.
However, the novel needs a good editor to take it in hand and help the author realise its full potential. I’m not talking about typos or issues with grammar or spelling here, but fundamental issues with the structure, style and content of the novel. Dialogue, for instance, is extremely unnatural. The characters have long, in depth conversations with each other about their innermost feelings that are unnatural and unrealistic. Characters in novels need to sound like real people. And while we have this insight into the characters feelings, we know nothing really about Austen herself – what she does before she gives it all up to go to the ranch, what her background is etc., all those things that make fully formed characters.
The language too needs a thorough edit. The text is full of complicated words and convoluted, complicated sentences that need to be tightened, strengthened and restructured. There also needs to be a much clearer point of view. These are all issues that a good editor could sort, working with the writer to draw out the fabulous story and the great writing that is in there somewhere.
I’m giving this book three stars because I really feel that this author has the potential to write and write well, and the idea for this novel is sound. However, Ms Cooper has been totally let down by poor editing, which is a real shame.