At a Bondi Writers Group meeting, we discussed the question of how to write a book review. One of our long-term members had just published her book of poems: Barking at Shadows, and she had brought along copies of a review written by one of the members of the Society of Women Writers.

As I’ve had experience writing book reviews, especially of short story collections, I thought I would share with you the main points in going about writing such a review for a collection of short stories.


  1. After reading the stories in the book, choose several (three or four) favourite stories to focus on.
  2. State the title of the book, the publisher, and the year of publication at the top of the review.
  3. In the opening paragraph try to give an overview of the book: say what the main themes of the stories are in a couple of sentences.
  4. Write the title of the story to discuss and the author’s name at the top of the next paragraph.
  5. Say what you liked about the story. Each story will suggest topics, such as the following, to consider when writing about your positive impressions: Character, Storyline, Setting, Voice, Point of View, Emotional Impact, Authentic Dialogue, Humour, Irony, Structure

CONSTRUCTIVE SUGGESTIONS: Mention anything that you thought could have been done better, e.g, too much telling, not enough dialogue.

SUMMARISE your thoughts and state who the audience of the stories might be.

The author of Prim’s book review, after the initial appraisal, stated her ideas in general about poetry: “For me personally, poetry should wrestle with language, play with words, and be built on sustained metaphor and surprising imagery. It should suggest, rather than state.” (Lesley Walter, published poet and past President of the Society of Women Writers). She suggested that Prim’s poems did not always follow these—for her—prerequisites.

We discussed the possibility of members writing reviews about one another’s work, before going on to the feedback part of our meeting. Prose and poetry were read aloud for feedback. These sessions provide practice in the task of appraisal and critique that written reviews require.