Monday, 12 September 2011

Just to set the record straight...

I recently read this comment regarding Before I Go to Sleep....

For example, I'm currently reading "Before I Go To Sleep" by S J Watson - the book is definitely a page turner and has an exciting and original story, BUT - this book is set in London, England. The characters are English yet the main character, Christine (who has lost over 20 years of her memories, I may add, so isn't influenced by US TV etc) constantly uses very American words and phrases that us Brits never use such as "peanut butter and jelly sandwich", "cell phone" , "candy" , "panties" , "closet" amongst many others. It just really irritates me that better research wasn't carried out and it wasn't edited well enough as other than this I would give this book 5 stars easily.

And the worst thing is - the author is English!

It's not the first comment I've received with the same complaint, so I thought I'd just clarify things for those that are upset or disappointed by the vocabulary in the book. There are two English language versions of Before I Go to Sleep - one which is available in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and one which is available in the US and Canada. 

In one version the book has diapers, sidewalks, closets, peanut butter and jelly and cell phones etc., and in the other it has nappies, pavements, wardrobes, and mobile phones. I can't remember what replaces peanut butter and jelly, I'm afraid, but it's probably something involving jam. Otherwise the versions are exactly the same - there are no differences in plot, character or anything else. 

The decision to make these changes was taken in conjunction with my US editor. My understanding is that it happens frequently in order to make books more understandable to a US audience - whether it is necessary or right to do that isn't something I want to comment on, other than to say I have been asked whether I think these changes "compromise my writing" and the answer is : no, I don't. The changes result from a trade-off between authenticity and readability for US and Canadian audiences - and I hope we have the balance right.


Grete Evans said...

As far as I've seen, this is pretty much standard practice when a book is published for US/UK markets.

The reasoning is sound to my mind. Words that hold one meaning for us British folks can hold another for Americans, and while that might not be confusing for people who read a lot of British books, for others it would jerk them out of the story.

I'm quite surprised you even got comments about it!

Still an amazing book either way!

Elizabeth Hastings said...

I am so glad you clarified this as I have to remind myself quite often that the book takes place in London - place references jolt me back to England.

I do have a US edition which clarifies it all. Notwithstanding, it is a terrific read. I am trying, with difficulty, not to rush it to get to the end.

Congratulations on an amazing book.


Rita said...

Re: Elizabeth's comment
I also had difficulty not rushing to find out what happened next. I thought I'd made myself slow down. However, at the reading group meeting about the book there were so many details that others had read but that I'd missed. I just hate it when that happens. The only thing I can think of to rectify the problem is to now go back and read it again ... calmly! Isn't that a shame?!

Donna said...

I loved the book and was on pins & needles trying to figure out what had happened to Christine, and by whom. I raced to finish the book. Now, please write a sequel to let us know if Christine remembered the next day!

I'm from North Carolina, USA, and if the book I read had talked about "nappies" and "pavements" I wouldn't have known what the meanings were, so thanks for the US/Canada version! Does a nappie have something to do with a nannie? A wardrobe is a stand alone piece of furniture where clothing or other items are stored. And I agree, these changes do not compromise the characters or the story; they just make the book more readable to a diverse population of readers. Keep up the good work. A great read!

f.k.omm said...

I grew up in both the UK and USA so nappies vs diapers & sidewalk vs pavements references don't spook me a bit, but I know it's common practice to have different versions.

It leads to a payoff - on the one hand, you keep readers comfortable by using vocabulary tailored to them - but on the other, you slightly dilute the sense of place, and you risk producing that "dislocating" effect of having British characters who think American, or characters who sound American turning out to be British.

In an ideal world, the equivalent of peanut butter and jelly would surely be Marmite... (ducks)

None of which detracts from this brilliant high concept thriller, which I really enjoyed (and recommend)!