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What is a literary review?

We explain what a literary review is, its characteristics, structure and various examples. Also, how to write a literary review.

What is a literary review?

Literary reviews are critical texts (that is, belonging to the field of literary criticism) that address a particular literary work from an evaluative point of view. They offer a useful reading and arguments for other readers, either as a way of promoting the book (or perhaps not recommending it), or with the purpose of offering a brief but justified look on it.

Said in less words, it is a text that offers an opinion or a look on a literary work , according to the author’s particular criteria. Many employ scoring systems, or some equivalent that conveys the general feeling of the reviewer, and accompany the text with editorial information regarding the work.

The literary review plays an important role in the promotion of the book and the authors, especially those that are published in large newspapers of mass circulation or on highly visited websites, and that are often addressed to the large reading public or even to buyers More uninformed.

But at the same time, the literary review can make life in more elitesque circuits, such as the academy or the literary and cultural circuits of a country. In these cases, the public usually has more knowledge about the subject, and the most demanding review in terms of methodology , criteria and the selection of the text to be reviewed.

Characteristics of the literary review

In general, a literary review responds to a rather free format of short essay or article . It is usually relatively short , although it can be spread over several pages, and is usually stated from the point of view of the reviewer, or from an impersonal one.

Sometimes the text can even border the reading chronicle , with personal information or small narratives . All in function of giving the reader a glimpse of what he will find in the book or work reviewed.

Structure

There is no fixed or recommended structure for a literary review, since in the background these are somehow creative texts. However, since they are usually also written argumentative-expository, it is not uncommon to see that they are governed by the traditional structure of:

  • Title , which summarizes the spirit of the whole text, mentioning or not the work to review.
  • Introduction ,  where the reader is given a general perspective, point of view orprevious information that then serves to enter the body of the text.
  • Development , which exposes the strength of the text: the arguments, with quotes, reflections, etc., depending on the approach pursued.
  • Conclusions , where what was said initially is retaken, a closure is offered, a general feeling regarding the review and, sometimes, accessory information is given or a score is placed on the work reviewed.

How to make a literary review

literary review how to do it
It is important to read other texts about the work and about the author.

While the actual writing of a literary review is as free as the author wishes it to be, there are a number of minimum steps that should be taken into account when doing so, such as:

  • Read the entire book . If possible, more than once. This will allow taking notes, marking important episodes or quotes that will then be used to demonstrate points of view. Under no circumstances will the reviewer read abstracts or incomplete versions of the text, or review a text that did not end, did not want to end or could not finish.
  • Investigate as much as possible . It is never a bad idea to read something that others have said about the work, not so much to confirm ideas, although a quote from a prestigious reviewer or a specialist of some kind is always welcome in these cases, but to see what they have said in this regard and know if we are missing something, if there is something that we do not take into account, or even to know what statements the author has made in interviews , what keys he has shared about his own work, etc.
  • Organize the ideas . Sounds obvious, but a literary review is not very different from any argumentative text, in which you must have some kind of main idea or central concept around which the review will revolve. What is the main success of the book? In what context do your qualities stand out? What is the best way to understand it? In light of what theme?
  • Write as clearly as possible . A review is not a poem , nor is it a story, nor is it a religious prayer, although it may well be used to fulfill its mission, which is to talk about the book. In any case, you have to have something to say about the book, some speech in which to insert it, some criteria to share with the readers, and you have to write it in a way that is understood. A book of poetry can be very hermetic, but the review that explores it must be understandable, even if it is for connoisseurs.

Examples of literary reviews

The following are perfect examples of literary reviews:

  • “Like mute trees” , a review of the novel In the Bay (1922) by New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield, written by Pablo Puel.
  • “The correspondences of the 21st century: facts of a lyric diaspora” , a review of the poems book The correspondences (2015) of the Mexican poet Alí Calderón, written by Fernando Torres Salazar.
  • “Sorry about what happened, by Richard Ford,” a review of the storybook Sorry about what happened (2019) by the American author Richard Ford, written by Virginia Garza.
  • “Joaquín Gianuzzi: Get poetry” , a review of the complete poetic work of the Argentine Joaquín Gianuzzi, written by Martín M. Marchione.
  • “Stand Up, Kassandra” , a review of the novel Call Me Kassandra (2018) by Cuban author Marcial Gala, written by Gabriel Payares.

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