How Not to Respond to Negative Reviews: The Kathleen Hale Edition
There’s a story that is burning up twitter today. Writing for The Guardian, author Kathleen Hale describes how she chose to respond to a negative review of her first novel.
No One Else Can Have You is a book with controversial themes, so it would be safe to assume that some reviewers are going to hate it, but Hale wasn’t able to simply accept it and let go.
After that first bad review came in, Hale started stalking her reviewer online, and then went to the next level and expanded the stalking into real life. Hale got the reviewer’s home address (which was confirmed by a publisher
her publisher, HarperCollins) and after paying for a background check Hale showed up at the reviewer’s home.
Okay, that is not quite how Hale described it in her piece, but my summary differs because I have stripped out her justifications so I could focus on simply reporting the facts of the situation.
Sidenote: Over on PasteBin, someone posted a similar analysis of Hale’s description of her actions. If you read it you’ll see that I am actually understating the issues here. (Thanks, Sunita, for the link!)
And in case you are wondering, some of the justifications I am leaving out include details about the reviewer’s supposed past actions. I am skipping those details because they were reported by someone who is so far round the bend that she does not realize that stalking is bad, and also because Hale would not have the info if not for the fact that Hale was stalking the book reviewer:
“Europe” seemed a vague destination for an adult planning a vacation. But a few nights later, lit only by the glow of my screen, I watched in real time as Blythe uploaded photos of Greece to Instagram. The Acropolis at night. An ocean view. A box of macaroons in an anonymous hand.
The images looked generic to me, the kind you can easily find on Google Images, but then Blythe posted a picture of herself sitting in a helicopter. The face matched the tanned Twitter photograph.
“Fuck,” I said. What if she was real and had simply given the book club the wrong address?
Then Judy updated her Facebook profile with photographs of a vacation in Oyster Bay, New York. I clicked through and saw the holiday had started on the same day as Blythe Harris’s.
I know that there are authors who will instinctively take the side of Hale, but I would remind you that Hale rented a car, drove to the reviewer’s house, and:
Before I could change my mind, I walked briskly down the street toward the Mazda parked in Judy’s driveway. A hooded sweatshirt with glittery pink lips across the chest lay on the passenger seat; in the back was a large folder full of what looked like insurance claims. I heard tyres on gravel and spun round to see a police van. For a second I thought I was going to be arrested, but it was passing by – just a drive through a quiet neighbourhood where the only thing suspicious was me.
Hale also expanded her stalking to include calling the reviewer at her day job.
If you still think Hale was in the right then perhaps I should add some context. After some digging, I found the original review which sparked this debacle. It was on Goodreads, and while I can’t speak to the accuracy I do think it is an honest review.
Update: It’s been pointed out to me that I probably linked to the remnants of a review, and not the review itself. To clarify, I see the remarks and the timeline on that GR page as being honest opinions and not the malicious behavior as implied by Hale.
I also found the book blog in question: Finding Bliss in Books
Since this is a relatively straightforward situation, I have not done any digging to find dirt on the book reviewer. (I refuse to engage in blaming the victim.) I do however have more links which should provide a better understanding of Hale.
To be honest, folks, I don’t know what to say next. I went into this with the intention of shedding light on both sides, but this situation is so clearly one-sided that I simply cannot.
No matter how bad the review, there is simply no justification for the stalking. None.
And there is nothing else to be said.