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The anatomy of a book blurb: Why do we need them? (And why you have to read The Concert Master’s Sister’s Orphan!)

We're in the thick of it: spring book season, when store shelves across the nation are packed with new titles competing for readers' attention. But which ones should we read? The omnipresent, gushing blurbs on the covers all clamour for our attention, but can we trust them? Why do authors write them? And why do publishers insist on them? A Globe Books investigation, beginning with an incisive critique of our favourite non-existent book, The Concert Master's Sister's Orphan.

The anatomy of a blurb: A Globe Books investigation

The publishers' perspective: The burden of the blurb

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The writers' point of view: What happens when the blurbee becomes the blurber?

PRAISE FOR THE CONCERT MASTER'S SISTER'S ORPHAN!

Moving between music and memory, this unforgettable tale of love and loss brings a near-forgotten time vividly to the page, infusing it with mystery, seduction–the rich and frothy stuff of life itself. Stephanie Gimlette's heart-rending tale is packed with characters you won't soon forget, shot through with a deeply human humour from which you'll never stop laughing and laced with shockingly perceptive truths by which you'll never not be haunted. It's a harrowing yet ultimately uplifting investigation into who we were, who we are, and who we will be. The Concert Master's Sister's Orphan is not just unputdownable–it's a heady masterpiece. –.Lancelot Link, author of Secret chimp

THE CRITIQUE

Target practice

"Shot through," that old chestnut, is nothing more than lazy figurative language that has ossified into cliché. To be avoided at all costs.

Indecision

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"Between music and memory" sounds great and means... nothing. Blurbs love to tell you a book moves between two abstract things, which is just a hazy way of trying to have it all.

Started from the bottom

If you believe the blurbs, we're all in need of a pick-me-up. Everything's inspirational, uplifting, rapturous. Happiness sells, sure, but some of us like being sad.

Total package

Love, loss, etc.: What else do you need? Beware the book that tries to do it all; beware the blurb that tries to sell it all. (Classics of literature excepted.)

Feat of imagination

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No blurbing sin is worse than "unputdownable," a hideous term that is at once nonsensical (you've got to put everything down at some point) and not an actual word. It's an out-and-out assault on the English language.

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