You Have Five Pages to Tell Me It’s Good: The Berlin Exchange by #JosephKanon. #FirstChapter #BookReview #Podcast

Hello, amazing fellow creatives! Here’s to more fun perusing the library’s new releases to see what strikes our fancy. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve retitled Story Cuppings to better fit the premise of the podcast.

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:

The Berlin Exchange by Joseph Kanon

The first pages of The Berlin Exchange by Joseph Kanon bring readers to the 1960s and the height of the Cold War. We are to witness a prisoner exchange…only we are quickly transported back in time to before that exchange with the briefest allusions of what has brought one of the prisoners to that moment of exchange. Despite Kanon’s writing choices not following my preference for sensory detail and action in the first paragraph, I cannot help but be intrigued with both our narrator and enigmatic protagonist, Martin. What will you, fellow creatives, make of these first five pages? Let’s find out!

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

I’ll always be a sucker for Cold War-era espionage, but it’s the voice here that intrigued me the most. The stream-of-conscious paragraph on the fourth page reminded me of prose poetry, while the curt inserts in the exposition have me wondering just who is telling us the story. Is it Martin? Is it a separate narrator? I have to know!

As always, I love hearing what’s on the shelves of your own libraries. Libraries Rock!

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

11 thoughts on “You Have Five Pages to Tell Me It’s Good: The Berlin Exchange by #JosephKanon. #FirstChapter #BookReview #Podcast

  1. The man in the camel coat? George Smiley for sure!
    Another great podcast, Jean, introducing a book I’d happily sit down to read. Your comment about character’s actions in dialogue made me think. I probably overdo it a bit too, but that’s how I write and I don’t write stark spy scenes, because it worked so well here.
    Looking forward to next time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ugh, I know what you mean, Chris. I like having those actions in there, but yup, it can be easily overdone. Say, since you mention it, have you heard Gary Oldman doing another Smiley-esque kind of character for a streaming show SLOW HORSES? I don’t have any streaming, so I can’t see it, but it sounds like it could be pretty darn good…

      Liked by 1 person

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