The Road Back by Erich Remarque

The object of writing a book review, of 1,250-1,500 words, on a historical text is to point out theconclusions that the author presents in the novel, and to assess the validity of the conclusions.Writing a book review as an assignment in a history course has at least four important objectives:Effective writing; A substantive knowledge about a particular historical topic; An understanding of the nature and use of historical research; and An ability to think critically about the work of others.A book review goes beyond mere summary to inquire into the overall worth of a novel.In order to do a competent review, it is best to read quickly through the novel for generalcontent, noting anything that seems significant and/or controversial. Then go back and considermore thoroughly the basic structure and thesis of the novel. As you are reading, keep severalquestions in mind:What is the subject and purpose of the novel (general text, new interpretation, propaganda)? How qualified is the author to deal with the topic? Find out about the author’s education andpast experience in order to judge whether he/she is especially qualified as an expert in the field. What is the author’s point of view on the subject? Try to discern if there are any reasons whythe author may be presenting a biased approach. How does the author’s point of view compare with that of other historians who have written onthe same topic? How valid is the author’s point of view and how competently is the argument presented? Assess how important the novel is in relation to the material already available on the subjectand whether the author has fulfilled the purpose for which the novel was intended.Remember, you are posing as an expert and it is your job to be critical. However, do not expectthe author to have written the novel you have in mind. Pay particular attention to what the authorsays is the focus of the novel in the Introduction and judge how well the stated goals are carriedout. Organization of a Book ReviewWhen quoting from or referring to a particular section of the novel you are reviewing, give thepage number in a formal citation. If you draw upon other resources, be sure you cite according tothe proper format.You are not held to any specific order in presenting your review. However, you will find that itis helpful to check that you have discussed the following in some logical sequence:Statement of the purpose and general content of the novel. Discussion in detail of the author’s main conclusions and an assessment of their validity,including a comment on sources and a comparison with other authors. Overall assessment of the value of the novel to historical literature and of the merits andshortcomings of the work as you see them.The following outline is only a suggestion:Introduction Purpose of the novel. Author’s Qualifications and Viewpoint. Critical Summary Thesis of the Novel. Summary of contents, indicating how the thesis is developed (Use examples. While this willgenerally be the longest part of the review, you should make sure that your review does not becomea mere summary without analysis) Style and Presentation Organization of the Novel. Writing Style (word choice, paragraph structure, readability, and length) Conclusion Historical contribution of the novel (How does the novel fit into the prevailinginterpretation of the subject? Does it break new ground? Does it answer a troublesome question?Does it revise older interpretations? Does it merely clarify and simplify the standard point ofview?) Overall worth of the novel (Would you recommend the novel? For what type of audience wouldit be best suited? Did the author accomplish his/her purpose?)When we are familiar with the format and the hidden meanings of sentences we know that we arereading a particular text genre – in this case a book review. Essentially we can always tell we arereading a book review from the language and the structure that it employs. Writers of book reviewstypically progress through four stages, as follows:They introduce the book by: outlining the general topic indicating who the book is for placing the book in its field. Next, they often outline the content of the book by: giving a general view of its the organization stating the topic of each chapter/section. 3. Then they highlight parts of the book by: selecting particular chapters or themes for evaluation critiquing the argument of the book. And finally, they evaluate the book by: commenting on aspects of the content indicating how it meets the readers’ needs remarking on its format, price, and value for money making recommendations for purchase or otherwise. Some of the things said about such reviews were that they were: pointless, uninformative, indecisive and boring a mere listing of the contents pretentious, unkind, careless personally abusive about the author’s credentials written to cherish the reviewer’s ego.Generally speaking, book reviews were not highly regarded if they simply outlined the content of abook, in a chapter by chapter format. On the other hand, approximately 55 per cent of therespondents recalled reading an outstanding book review. Here it was thought that such reviews:gave a balanced critical evaluation of the text made seemingly dull topics interesting were well written, succinct, and informative displayed awesome scholarship made people want to buy the book.