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Perhaps we don’t give enough consideration to the difficult decisions publishers have to make. This unusual (even heretical?) thought occurred when I was reflecting on how my enjoyment of Melvyn Bragg’s splendid novel Grace and Mary had been spoiled by a key plot development being given away in the blurb on the back.

The novel was presumably written in the expectation that the reader, like the protagonists, did not know what was coming. I have tried to imagine how my reading would have differed had I shared their ignorance: my reactions at the key point would have been stronger.

The publisher presumably has to judge how much of the book’s content to reveal in the blurb in order to turn the browser into a buyer. There’s no point in keeping schtum about the plot so as to enhance the enjoyment of the browser who hasn’t bought the book but has just put it back on the pile and is now looking at the next one. In this case the judgment must have been that revealing this turn in the plot would make the book more heart-wrenching, more alluring.

I would’ve bought Grace and Mary anyway, so for me that judgment was the wrong one. But publishers know their trade better than me, so …….

At least I hope they do.

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