Reaction Weekend

What is the point of a bad review?

BY Alice Crossley | tweet AliceCrossley2   /  14 November 2020

In mid-October, the writer and podcaster Dolly Alderton, published her first fictional novel, Ghosts. Her debut quickly became hot property for her middle-class millennial fandom and soon after, a Sunday Times bestseller. Then, unexpectedly, her work was upstaged by a particularly scathing review.

Headlined “Haunting, but not in a good way” Barry Pierce, a journalist for the Irish Times, said the novel bought him “nothing but pain and disappointment”. Twitter users ripped apart the piece, amplifying particularly harsh phrases across the platform. Some seemed to love seeing a regularly lauded author criticised, others were protective of the much-loved writer.

It is unlikely this debut novel would have attracted such criticism or praise had it not been written by an already renowned writer, but the arguments that ensued raised an interesting question: what is the point of a review? Is it a means of exercising free speech and opinion? Or, if you have nothing nice to say, should you say nothing at all?


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