Novellas in November: The Ones that Got Away #NovNov22

So, it’s a week since my positive Covid test and I am still testing positive and still feelin rotten, so my hopes of reviewing a few more novellas by the end of the month came to nothing.

Thank you all for your continued support of the challenge and for your lovely well wishes last week – cheered me up greatly!

Before getting sick, I was actually quite organised and had read quite a few novellas, but full reviews are just not happening at the minute, so here are a few flash reviews to give you an idea of the ones that got away…

the pumpkin eater by penelope mortimer

I was really impressed with this short dreamlike story featuring a woman disillusioned with marriage and family life. Strange, unsettling and shot through with dark humour, this felt like an inverted fairy-tale and I will definitely look out for more of Mortimer’s work.

the silence by don delillo

If you’ve never read DeLillo, don’t start here. Although The Silence is a brilliant distillation of the themes in his earlier, more substantial work, it’s not overly satisfying and reads like a modern day Waiting for Godot, as a group of well-heeled Manhattanites hole up in an apartment while technology fails across the world. I love DeLillo and I enjoyed some of this, but it’s not his best.

gratitude by delphine de vigan, translated by george miller

Gratitude is a small triumph and I sobbed my way through the final pages. Michka, an elderly woman, is battling asphasia while trying to come to terms with a childhood trauma which has defined her life. It’s a sad, but poignant exploration of connection, gratitude and independence and is beautifully done.

the name of the world by denis johnson

Johnson’s Train Dreams was my book of the year last year and while The Name of the World isn’t quite up there with that masterpiece, I still found a lot to like in this tale of a college professor who has never fully recovered from the death of his wife and child in a car accident. It is an oblique and introspective novella which explores how connection with other people is the only thing that will save us.

victory by james lasdun

Victory is actually two powerful novellas – Feathered Glory and Afternoon of a Faun – which both explore dark corners of the male psyche and how lives can be unsettled by memories of the past. Afternoon of a Faun is the better of the two, as it explores the fall-out of an historic accusation of rape on both the supposed victim and her supposed assailant. Lasdun balances an interesting and at times queasy ambivalence in both stories, leaving the reader very much in control.

You were never really here by jonathan ames

I would never have thought that hard-boiled crime writing could work within the format of a novella, but Jonathan Ames packs a lot into this brutal, blunt tale of Joe, a damaged ex-Marine who is now a man for hire, specialising in rescuing young girls kidnapped for sex trafficking. More of a character study than anything else, Ames manages to invest Joe in an attractive depth which powers the plot. My only complaint would be the shockingly abrupt ending which leaves the entire story hanging.


I’ll be checking back in tomorrow with a round-up post and will hopefully be back to normal next week with a few outstanding reviews and my Top Reads from 2022.

Novellas in November novels in translation The 746

Cathy746books View All →

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

34 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Thanks for the reviews and the stylish bloc post. I found Train Dreams along with Jesus’ Son in one volume and it’s read by Will Patton so I might have to get that next. Just scoot it right up the pile and give it cuts.

    Sorry about the DeLillo. I’m a huge fan and it’s sad to see him apparently in decline – but the man is 85 years old! And his buds are still running – Cormac McCarthy (89 years) and Thomas Pynchon (86 years). All devoted US writers. – I wonder how McCarthy’s new book will do? I don’t think Pynchon has any in the works.

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  2. I’m so sorry Cathy, hope you feel better soon. Some excellent novellas, I’m particularly interested in the Lasdun. I was greatly impressed by The Pumpkin Eater too and would also highly recommend Mortimer’s short story collection “Saturday Lunch with the Brownings” and her novel “Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting.”

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  3. I completely agree with your comments about the Delillo. He’s an extraordinary writer but The Silence is definitely not his best though will probably improve in re-read.
    Hope you feel better soon.

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  4. Sorry you’ve been ill. It does look like you had some great reads, though. I absolutely loved The Pumpkin Eater. I know all about struggling to do full reviews. I managed three novellas for Novellas in November which were all great.

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  5. SO sorry you are still feeling so unwell Cathy. My brother has just contracted it for the second time, but he feels not too bad.

    I had hoped to read more than one, but didn’t get my second one – the Aussie one – finished.

    The hard-boiled novella intrigues me too!

    Anyhow, hope you are feeling a lot better now!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sorry to hear you’ve been unwell, I hope the fatigue has passed. I haven’t been blogging for a period so just coming back to see what’s going on.
    I read Gratitude a while ago and really enjoyed it, it’s something of a departure from De Vigan’s other works, a good one I thought.

    Liked by 1 person

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