TikTok to Success
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This book is published by New Direction as a part of the “Storybook ND Series.” The goal of this series is to give readers the pleasure they felt as children when they could read an entire book from cover to cover in one afternoon. Thus, all the books are short, this one only contains sixty-four pages broken up into thirty-two chapters.
The book came out in 2022, but as of November, 2023, it was hard to find a physical copy anywhere. The 10,000 copy first run had sold out. In large part this is because of Ann Patchett, who read the book then went on TikTok to tell readers, “This is the best thing ever.” Voila! An instant best seller!
The book is about a 17-year old female named Marguerite who was raised in Marrakesh by a very wealthy French mother and English father. As we meet her, she is writing a memoir. By chapter five, we learn she has an editor, Bethany, who is not thrilled with her efforts thus far. Bethany, wanting a juicier, more emotional story suggests a ghostwriter. She particularly wants the scoop on the day Marguerite learned she had been living a lie, the day she realized what her “parents” had done to her. Sounds juicy, but Marguerite has no intention of telling that story, even with a signed publishing contract that seemingly forces her to do so.
But this is where Marguerite gets the upper hand. In a very interesting manner, she manages to not only hold her own, but outwit her New York publisher, her agent, and a few attorneys along the way.
As a writer, I found the skewering of the publishing world to be interesting. Researching DeWitt a bit, I learned that she has reason to have negative feelings toward the industry. According to Wikipedia, her first book, The Last Samurai (not to be confused with Tom Cruise’s movie of the same name) caused much heartache. Because of the foreign text she used in the manuscript, there were typesetting problems. There were also various problems surrounding the title (the Tom Cruise issue included). Adding more, there was an accounting dispute over whether she owed the publisher – or the publisher owed her – a large five figure number. And if that was not enough, in spite of the book’s success (selling over 100,000 copies) it went out of print for more than a decade.
All of this background makes the book as intriguing as the plot itself. Since it’s such a short book I won’t elaborate on the plot except to say there are lots of twists and turns right up until the last page. Helen DeWitt packs a lot into her sixty-four-page story. I say, give her a couple of hours of your time and see what you think!
Click here to learn more about The English Understand Wool on Amazon.
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