POV Review – I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

This is the first book I’ve ever read where all POVs are used: First person, Second person, and Third Person (limited).

I Let You Go (Debut Novel – it always thrills me to read debuts)

by Clare Mackintosh

UK Publisher: Sphere ©2014

US Publisher: Berkley ©2016

Agent Sheila Crowley

Let’s jump right into this. Three POVs. I haven’t read a book that has done this before, I’m not saying it hasn’t been done, I’m just I haven’t read one like this before. A nice treat.

There are three narrators: Jenna who is in first person, present tense, Detective Ray who is in third person present tense, and I’m not naming the third narrator written in past tense and whose POV is, upon further inspection it’s first person with a twist of second person. I know, weird to explain, but interesting how it’s used.  So let’s get into the examples so you understand what I mean.

Example of Jenna, first person/ present tense, from page 124 –

         I sit at the kitchen table in front of my laptop, my knees drawn up underneath the big cable-knit sweater I used to wear in my studio in the winter months. I’m  right next to the range, but I’m shaking, and I pull the sleeves down over my hands. It’s not even lunchtime, but I have poured myself a large flass of red wine. I type into the search engine, then pause.

Honestly, not my favorite kind of first person “I sit…I pull…I type….” However, this paragraph is an anomaly. For the most part, with this character, it’s not that bad.  With this character I don’t get fully immersed in feeling for her, solely because of that arms-length style writing. Even though it’s a bit smoother in other parts, it still keeps me at a distance.

Example of Detective Ray Stevens, third person/ present tense, from page 7 –

          Ray stretched out a hand for the piece of paper and scanned it while Kate stood awkwardly in the doorway. 

The third person is limited only because we get Ray’s POV, not Kate’s, not anyone else’s.  I realize I forgot to get an example from the book so I’m making one up here. “Ray thought this workload was overwhelming.” Third person in Ray’s head, but limited because we aren’t getting “Kate, also, thought the work was overwhelming.” If we did have that POV, it would be unlimited third person.

Example of Unnamed Narrator – first person/second person twist, in past tense, from page 206.

          I had worried that giving you a key may have been a mistake…

Another example from the same page:

          I looked at the food laid out on the work surface…. You must have spent all afternoon getting it ready.

So we have two present tense POVs and one past tense POV. It definitely distinguishes who’s up at the narrator bat. Works. I think I only recall one snafu which happens at the end of one of the Unnamed narrator’s chapter and the beginning of the next chapter with the Jenna first person POV.  The next chapter begins vaguely and has a “you” so it takes a moment to process who is talking and where we are. But it’s brief.

All in all an interesting way to break up mulitple points of view.

And Clare has another book recently released on my “must read” list: I See You 

What do you think of different POVs in one story?

NEXT WEEK: Before The Fall by Noah Hawley

POV Review – Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

Wylding Hall

By Elizabeth Hand

Publisher: Publishing Ltd.

146 pages


Agent: Martha Millard

Genre: Paranormal, Mystery, Horror, Ghosts

First, I have to say, I’ve forgotten how much I love a good ghost/haunting story. Thank you Ms. Hand for reminding me.

This story is written in first person – multiple narrators. Present tense – the narrators are speaking now of something that happened in the past. I’m not sure how that pertains to tense. What is really nifty about this book is that the author wrote it like a paranormal show interviewing people about a ghost or haunting they experienced. Granted that is what Ms. Hand was going for with the story, but she did it superbly.

Excerpt Pg. 26 – Will

No, I don’t drink anymore. I’ve been sober for thirty-seven years now, longer than you’ve been alive. Back then, I could pack it away. Occupational hazard of the folksinger in those days. Rock and rollers, too. Les, she still does – you can see that on her face. Don’t print that. She has her reasons.

I kind of swoon at how well this is written. Why I love this so much is that it’s like paranormal shows where a person answers a question you don’t hear offscreen, but you know what was asked because the person onscreen uses a complete sentence to answer.

I would love to share more excerpts, but it’s such a short story that I just can’t. The excerpt I included was clearly in the present, but they delve into the past and yet, you still get the feeling you are sitting in a room listening to whichever narrator is up at the moment.

When you have multiple narrators, each speaking in their own chapter it is very clear who is up and who is speaking. However, Ms. Hand takes it a step further and each character is quite different from each other. If I were to pick up the book and not see the chapter, I could still differentiate between the characters. That may seem easy, but it’s really not.

As I think about the tense of stories I’m finding I don’t have a whole lot to analyze. They all seem to be flowing well. I’m getting lucky with my reading picks.

Elizabeth Hand’s Author Website

Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol – another book by Elizabeth which I have on my to-read list and which I’m sure will require a serious amount of tissues.

Have you read Wylding Hall? What do you think?

NEXT WEEK: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Perfect Girl – POV and Tense

You’ve noticed the small design change, but here’s where I’m going with the content. When I began writing it was hard for me to decide on POV (point of view) and tense. At first it seems simple:

First – I, me

Second – You

Third – Suzy, Bob, He, She

But as I delved further into the subject, it’s much harder than I realized.

There’s third person unlimited omniscience and third person limited and, well, there’s a lot to learn. It’s not so easy. Even the best writer’s get mixed up at times. I have read books that have been limited third person (where the main character can’t know what’s going on outside of her realm), but for a brief moment the author forgets and gives us insight to something the main character couldn’t possibly know.

A good first person account is hard to write and when you come across a story that writes one well, it is amazing.

Tense is an issue as well because even in present tense there is backstory to dredge up and then comes the balance of present and past and it needs to be done well enough that a reader doesn’t get lost in the reading process. Whew!

If you have a  recommendation for a book that does a particular POV or a past/present tense transition well, please let me know.  Leave a comment, email, Tweet, Facebook, whatever works best.  🙂

So from here on out I’m going on a learning process and I’m hoping you’ll join me and feed in your thoughts. I’ll post about a book or short story each week. And I’ll list out POV and tense, plus what I feel works and why. The more I do this, the more in-depth my posts will become. These first ones are going to be sparse, until I learn more.

Also, in case you’re an author looking for comparable books and who may have published, edited, or agented (is that even a word?) a book, I’ll list those as well in an effort to make the process a little easier.

The Perfect Girl

By Gilly Macmillan

Publisher: William Morrow

Copyright: 2016

435 pages

Editor: Emma Beswetherick, Editor in the UK

Editor: Amanda Bergeron in the U.S.

Agent: Nelle Andrew

Suspense/ Thriller/ Mystery

The story is about a young girl who made a mistake and did the time for it. After serving her time, her and her mother begin their “second chance life” with a new man and his son. Unfortunately the happiness isn’t long lasting and her mother winds up dead. The story is told over the course of a day (a 24-hour time period). That’s hard to do, keep a story entertaining over such a small time frame.

The book is told in first person, mulitple points of view from Zoe, Tessa, and Sam for approximately the first ¾ of the book, then we get a fourth person, Richard. He is also in first person POV.

Opening Paragraph:

Opening: ZOE

Before the concert begins, I stand inside the entrance to the church and look down the nave. Shadows lurk in the ceiling vaults even though the light outside hasn’t dimmed yet, and behind me the large wooden doors have been pulled shut.

Usually, I’ll stick to one paragraph, but with multiple characters having their say, I’m going to give the first paragraph of each character so that you get an idea of voice and style as well.

Pg. 11 – SAM

At 8 a.m. Tessa still hasn’t stirred, but I’ve been awake since dawn.

     I’m a criminal lawyer, with a heavy workload. I often work late and usually I sleep heavily until my alarm goes off, but today I have a hospital appointment that’s been burning a hole in the page of my diary for more than a week, and it’s on my mind the minute my eyes open.

Pg. 16 – TESSA

When you don’t have kids of your own, people have a tendency to give you things to look after. I think they assume that you’re lacking in outlets for any nurturing instincts that you might have.

Pg. 261 – RICHARD

Keep Calm and Carry On.

            It’s a slogan you see everywhere these days, it’s even printed on one of the tea towels that’s draped over the radiator in our kitchen. It might have recently become part of popular culture, but that slogan has its roots in wartime strength and self-sufficiency, and today I vow to be its living embodiment, because Maria’s death is a tragedy that has thrown our family into crisis, and somebody needs to keep their head.

This one is pretty simple first person all the way around. It is told in mostly present tense with backstory to fill in for all the characters.

The first person was okay, but could have used a lot less: I did, I opened, I saw, I thought.  To me it feels like being held at arm’s length so I can’t get close enough to the characters to fully care about them.

Personally, I was disappointed that Richard’s character came so late in the book. I don’t believe Sam’s narration was necessary. (Spoiler – if you’d like to avoid this just skip to the next paragraph: Tessa is having an affair with Sam and she’s married to Richard. The only reason Sam is in the book –I think- is to point out what Zoe was like after the accident and provide a little extra sub-plot. I really don’t think his voice or story added anything to the book that the author couldn’t have gotten across to us with one of the other character’s mentioning it.)

This is an instant where the book was good, but could have been great if it was a hundred pages shorter and we didn’t have an extra narrator that really added nothing to the story.

Have you read the book? What did you think of the Sam Narrator?


Next Week: Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce