Poisonwood Bible, a beautiful, haunting story of a family of six who travel into the Congo for missionary work in the sixties. Kingsolver takes us into their lives showing us their world and how it unfolds through the eyes of the minister's four daughters, and his wife. This book is one of those books that is simply perfect in description, characters, and dialogue, plotting, suspense, and satisfying conclusion. Loved it.
Despite the fact that Poisonwood Bible is a veritable modern day classic and thanks to Oprah, quite the bestseller to boot, I wonder, had this been the debut of a new novelist, would it have sold?
Everyone from my agent, to editors, to writing-guides emphasize the importance of your opening pages. The first sentence must hook the reader! The first page, action paced! Go go go! This is not the Jane Austen, Dickens era of slow story telling. We are constantly reminded to make it fast-paced, to keep the action going lest the reader put it down and reach for another book.
To put it frankly, Poisonwood Bible starts off boring. The first chapter is told from an unknown perspective, likely a being spying down from a tree- the verbiage is muddled and I had to re-read the first page at least three times because while it was all very pretty, it was also very confusingly worded. My husband agreed, not moving past the first page for the one month the book has sat on his nightstand. It's too slow, he complained.
And yet- if you pull through beyond that first chapter, you are well rewarded with stunning prose and storytelling rivaling the greats. But if this book was queried by an unpublished writer seeking representation, I cannot imagine anyone giving this book a chance. What a shame that would have been.
Maybe a debut book should start of action packed go-go-go and then once you've created a fanbase and people are willing to take a chance on you, you can dive in and do a story like Poisonwood Bible- slow to start, but beautiful and well worth reading until the very last drop.
What's your take on the current pressure on action-paced narration? Do you feel very pressured to make the first few pages pop in your manuscript?