The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap

Harper Collins|9 August 2018|416 pages|Review copy| 2*

Nova, an interpreter for the Metropolitan police, has been blind from birth. When she undergoes surgery to restore her sight her journey is just beginning – she now has to face a world in full colour for the first time. Kate, a successful architect and wife to Tony, is in hospital after a blow to the head. There, she meets Nova and what starts as a beautiful friendship soon turns into something more.

Nuanced and full of emotion, The Rules of Seeing poignantly explores the realities and tensions of a woman seeing the world for the first time – the highs and lows, the good and bad.

I thought from reading the blurb that this would be a book I would enjoy reading. The idea of a book about a blind woman whose sight is restored sounded enlightening – how she learned to interpret what she can see, having been born blind. And I did enjoy that aspect of this book. It does give an excellent insight into Nova’s struggle to cope emotionally with a world she can now see as well as hear and touch, and learning what it all means. And I liked the Rules of Seeing that she compiles from her experiences, although I think they are only loosely linked to the main story.

But, this isn’t just the story of a blind person learning to see and it’s not the main focus of this book which is Kate’s relationship with her husband and with Nova, and I didn’t like Kate’s story; the violence and anger of her husband, Tony was hard to read. If this had been referred to in the blurb I wouldn’t have chosen to read this book. I also found the pace very uneven and by the end of the book I thought it was too drawn out and I just wanted it to end.

One of the drawbacks of reading a review copy prior to publication is that you can’t read the beginning of a book. And if I had read the opening pages I wouldn’t have chosen it. It is in the present tense – there are some books that work well for me in the present tense and it certainly helps if I like the plot, but this isn’t one of them. I didn’t like the constant changes of scene -a bit like watching a drama or film where the action is filmed with a hand-held camera constantly changing focus, zooming in and out. It makes me feel claustrophobic. The use of the present tense in this book made me feel I was watching TV with the audio description turned on, explaining what is happening on screen.

It’s a pity as the basic concept is good and the characters came over as real people. I’m sorry I just couldn’t like it.

Thank you to Harper Collins and NetGalley for my copy of this book for review.

10 thoughts on “The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap”

  1. I am sorry to hear that this was a disappointment to you, Margaret. The premise (of a woman recovering her sight) does sound interesting. But I understand exactly what you mean about the other plot. And if the focus of the book was on that part, I can see why you found that the book wasn’t what you’d hoped it might be. I have to say, too, that I agree with you about the present tense. I strongly prefer the past tense, myself.

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  2. Ugh. What a waste to spoil a wonderful idea by combining it with violence and anger. I’ll pass. Thanks for the very informative review.

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  3. That pesky present tense! I wish there was some way to look inside review copies before taking them too – I always hate either abandoning a review copy or feeling I must read it and then giving it a poor review. The first few paragraphs is often enough to know whether a book is for you…

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  4. What a shame. It does sound rather good but I think the violence of the husband would put me off too. It sounds almost like two books rather than one, and the author wasn’t sure which to write so combined them. Disappointing for you.

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    1. Cath, you’ve put your finger on the problem – it’s as though the author didn’t think the story of Nora’s sight restoration was enough on its own!

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