Getting ready for Novellas in November!

With just over a fortnight to go until this year’s Novellas in November hosted by myself and Rebecca at Bookish Beck, it’s time to start planning what I’m going to read!

Novellas seem to be having a bit of a moment, with not one but two on the Booker Prize shortlist (winner to be announced this evening) – Treacle Walker by Alan Garner and Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan.

This great thread on Twitter contains loads of great suggestions for novellas and a recent article in the Financial Times extols the virtues of the shorter read.

I’ve been plotting and planning my reading for the last few weeks now and have assembled a list of four for each week. I do have some other options so these might be read, or might be swapped for something else.

WEEK ONE: SHORT CLASSICS

Reunion by Fred Uhlman

I was going to include Fred Uhlman’s Reunion in my Novellas in Translation week but Lizzy pointed out to me that it was originally written in English! Still, as Uhlman is a German writer, this will be my choice for German Literature Month.

Proxopera by Benedict Kiely

Colum McCann has called Proxopera ‘a perfect piece of literature’ and this classic novella from Northern Ireland writer Benedict Kiely is a very well kept secret. It explores the fall out when a man’s family is taken hostage by terrorists and he is forced to deliver a bomb for a terrorist organisation.

The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer

This one has been on my list for the last two years and I haven’t got round to it, so third try lucky for this tale of the emotional breakdown of a woman trapped in a difficult marriage.

The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan

Our cut-off date for classic novellas is 1980 so I’m cheating slightly by including McEwan’s mysterious 1981 novella, but after I enjoyed Lessons so much, I wanted to read this as it is one of the few of his early works that I haven’t read.

WEEK TWO: NOVELLAS IN TRANSLATION

The Governesses by Anne Serre, translated by Mark Hutchinson

Dubbed on Goodreads as a ‘semi-deranged erotic fairytale’ this novella is set in a large country house shut off from the world by a gated garden. Here, three young governesses responsible for the education of a group of little boys are preparing a party. Sounds intriguing!

Paradais by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes

A tale of violence and obsession set in a gated community immediately puts me in mind of JG Ballard, one of my favourite authors. I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to this, as I’ve heard it is a tough read, but it is sure to be powerful.

So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighbourhood by Patrick Modiano, translated by Euan Cameron

I’ve never read Modiano, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2014, so I thought a novella was a good place to start. The story of a man who gets embroiled in a decades old murder mystery sounds pretty good to me.

The Front Seat Passenger by Pascal Garnier, translated by Jane Aiken

Another new to me author, I’ve seen Garnier compared to Patricia Highsmith so I’m intrigued by this tale of a man who undertakes a dangerous obsession when his wife dies as the passenger in a car of another man.

WEEK THREE: SHORT NON-FICTION

The Chibok Girls by Helon Habila

On April 14, 2014, 276 girls from the Chibok Secondary School in northern Nigeria were kidnapped by Boko Haram, the world’s deadliest terrorist group. Most were never heard from again. Acclaimed Nigerian novelist Helon Habila, who grew up in northern Nigeria, offers a devastating account of this tragedy that stunned the world. 

Simple Passion by Annie Ernaux, translated by Tanya Leslie

What better time to try the work of Ernaux, than a few weeks after her Nobel win! Blurring the lines between fact and fiction, an unnamed narrator attempts to plot the emotional and physical course of her two-year relationship with a married foreigner.

A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa, translated by Risa Kobayashi & Martin Brown 

I find anything about North Korea really fascinating and here Ishikawa, who is half Japanese and half Korean, details his life and his eventual escape from that brutal regime.

Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington

My first choice for AusReading Month hosted by Brona at This Reading Life, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence is a personal account of an Indigenous Australian family’s experiences as members of the Stolen Generation—the forced removal of mixed-race children from their families during the early 20th century. 

WEEK FOUR: CONTEMPORARY NOVELLAS

Eve in Hollywood by Amor Towles

A follow-up of sorts to the wonderful Rules of Civility, Towles explores the fate of Evelyn Ross, a character from that novel, in six interlinked stories.

Springtime: A Ghost Story by Michelle de Krester

Another choice to tie in with Aus Reading Month, this slight novella from Michelle de Krester tells the story of a woman who, after moving to Sydney, believes that she is seeing a ghost on her daily walk.

You Were Never Really Here by Jonathan Ames

I’m intrigued by the idea of condensing a hard-boiled crime novel into a novella and am looking forward to this tale of a gun for hire and his quest for revenge.

Treacle Walker by Alan Garner

Currently on the shortlist for the Book Prize, Garner’s ninth book blends fantasy, folklore and old fashioned story-telling to tell the story of the relationship between a travelling pedlar Treacle Walker and a young boy named Joe.


Don’t forget, our Buddy Read this year is the wonderful Foster by Claire Keegan and if you need anymore inspiration, check out this list of all 198 reviews from Novellas in November last year!

Have you started to plan your Novellas in November reading yet?

Novellas in November

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

41 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Very excited to see you have TWO Australian novellas on your TBR list this year. I read Springtime a few years ago for an R.I.P event and found that it got under my skin.
    https://bronasbooks.com/2016/10/14/springtime-a-ghost-story-by-michelle-de-kretser/
    I am still to read The Rabbit Proof Fence – very much a gap in my Indigenous lit.
    I plan to buddy read Foster with you, but will be mostly focused on reading Voss by Patrick White throughout November. I’d like to see Keegan win the Booker tonight…

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  2. Well, you’re in for a feast of reading!
    I don’t often do this, but I’d like to suggest the film of Rabbit-Proof Fence as a complement to reading it. It’s a superb film, but also, if you’ve never been to Australia, it will give you a good idea of the distances travelled by those girls.

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  3. OOH! You have some wonderful potential reads in there. I’d particularly recommend The Pumpkin Eater, and the Jonathan Ames. I hope you’ll love Pascal Garnier as much as I do, he’s deliciously dark and funny. And Alan Garner… he’d have been my choice for the Booker tomorrow – if I hadn’t read the Claire Keegan.

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  4. You’ve very sensibly narrowed down your options, whereas I have huge unwieldy piles! Ah well, I like to have options. And you’re right, the novella does seem to be having a bit of a moment what with Annie Ernaux’s Nobel win and the two on the Booker shortlist. I feel like I see these Twitter threads requesting recommendations of under-200-page books at least a few times a year. It makes sense: people are busy; why not find excellent books that do what they do in just 100-something pages?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So exciting! I’m doing Rabbit-Proof Fence, too, although not sure when as I’m not following your categories as usual – I’m doing Nonfiction November and always do their categories and it’s too much. Handily, Rabbit-Proof Fence falls into all three, with AusReading Month as well! I have a nice lot of novella-length stuff on my TBR so will see how I do.

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  6. I’d love to read at least a couple, as I’ve really started to enjoy this shorter form in the last few years. I’m terrible at challenges, however, and I don’t think I’d be able to follow the categories. At any event, I hope to read lots of interesting reviews!

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