You’ve Got Five Pages, #Haven by #EmmaDonoghue, to Tell Me You’re Good. #FirstChapter #BookReview #Podcast

Hello, my fellow creatives! After a bout of illness and some time writing for NaNoWriMo, I am finally back and able to read the opening chapters of various new releases at my local library.

As writers, we hear all the time that we’ve got to hook readers in just the first few pages or else. We’ve got to hook agents in the first few pages or else.

Whether you’re looking to get published or just hoping to hook your reader, first impressions are vital. Compelling opening scenes are the key to catching an agent or editor’s attention, and are crucial for keeping your reader engaged.


Well then, let’s study those first few pages in other people’s stories, shall we?

Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:

Haven by Emma Donoghue

When I first grabbed Haven, I was admittedly hesitant because of my mixed feelings for her previous novel Room. Once I saw Haven is a historical novel featuring monks, though, my hesitation dissipated. 

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

I’m a big fan of Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose and the Cadfael series by Ellis Peters, so another mystery with monks? Sign me up! And as a writer, Donoghue packs a lot in those first five pages for readers. We open with an active abbey meal from the perspective of a young, hungry monk. We see the importance of the abbey to a community and the power the abbot enjoys. Yet there is an outsider visiting the abbey who, as the rumors say, is far more intelligent, far stronger, and simply far more blessed than any resident of that abbey, and this conflict reveals itself in a brief public interaction between the abbot and the outsider.

It’s a terrific setup for a number of possible progressions of plot, especially since we know from the book’s blurb three monks are going to essentially be stranded on a small island. Will that be by choice, or by punishment? The worldbuilding, too, is artfully done. I mentioned earlier that we can see the abbey is a central part of life, but I particularly dug how Donoghue utilizes the vocabulary of the period with her prose so that modern readers can use context to know what she’s talking about. This is one of the biggest challenges of historical fiction, and these early pages show that Donoghue conquered that challenge. 

As always, I love hearing what’s on the shelves of your own libraries. No matter what the season brings, keep reading!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!