If you had asked me about a week ago how I was doing with Novellas in November, I would’ve said terrible! We had gotten about 7 days into the month and I figured I was just failing another challenge (mainly since I decided to pick up anything BUT novellas), so I picked up a reread to try and get some momentum. After finishing that one (Ethan Frome, still such a great book!) I was hooked on the short book. It also helped that I had then started reading The Grapes of Wrath, which isn’t a beast of a book at all at only 455 pages, but it was still much longer than anything I had anticipated on reading this month.
Thankfully, Ethan Frome gave me the kick in the butt I needed! We’re now halfway through the month and I’ve finished 5 novellas, which is amazing given my recent lazy approach to reading. Novellas in November even made me want to attack an audiobook again because short audiobooks are the best. And can I just say how satisfying it is to fly through a whole book while making dinner?
WHAT I’VE READ
*Can I just make a note of how my first three reads start with ‘e’? Weird.
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (99 pages)
I read this book for the first time last year – probably close to exactly a year ago – and it was another one of the books that really kickstarted my love of classics. Ever since, I had been wanting to reread the story and so when winter rolled around and things basically looked like the cover of the book, I thought it was the perfect time. And the book is still so good. Edith Wharton is just such a fantastic writer, especially when it comes to her characters. It’s also interesting because I’ve read that this book is quite different from a lot of her other books and I’ve only read just one short story collection of two stories. Her way of writing makes me want to pick something else up by her sooner rather than later, though I think Ethan Frome will still remain my favourite of hers.
The Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith (69 pages)
Let me just say, I would probably never have picked up this book had it not been for Laura over at Reading In Bed. She is also participating in Novellas in November and so when I saw that she had read this one and said that everyone should take a half hour to read this book, I had to pick it up. My library had an audiobook and I hadn’t actually listened to an audiobook since July, so I thought this would be fun to pick up not only because it was just under an hour (even less since I listened at 1.5x the speed) but also because it was narrated by the author. It had been YEARS since I first read any Zadie Smith and that was 7 years ago with White Teeth. I remember really enjoying that book and I don’t know why I didn’t pick up anything else by her since. This book just reiterated what a good storyteller she is. Someone said that this book reminded them of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean At The End of the Lane in the fact that it’s just so simple of a book, but still so powerful and really makes you think about life and the whole big picture of everything. I absolutely LOVED Smith’s narration of the story and as I type this I almost want to listen to it again. At any rate, I need need need to pick up more Zadie Smith because she is just such a great writer.
Elevation by Stephen King (146 pages)
Earlier this year I saw that there was a new Stephen King book coming out in the fall and given its release date of October 30th, I figured it would be a horror novel, so consider me surprised to see that there really wasn’t anything “horror” about this at all; rather, it was more of a contemporary fantasy/science fiction, if there is such a thing. Regardless, not only didn’t I expect this book to be so short (146 pages in a very small book) but I also didn’t expect how uplifting it would be (pun intended). This isn’t really like any Stephen King I’ve read and I know many people have complained because it’s not horror at all and it’s a little too much to the point and a bit political, but I really enjoyed it. I bought it, started it that night, and finished it early the next morning and it left me with a smile on my face. It was very much a “feel good” story and even though it didn’t resonate with a lot of people, I still felt something after reading it.
The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin (105 pages)
So I’m not going to lie but I probably would’ve put this book down from disinterest after the first few sentences had I been reading the paper book. As it is, I downloaded the audiobook from the library and Meryl Streep’s narration was so unbelievably amazing that within the first couple minutes I was completely hooked to the story. It had been months since I listened to an audiobook and yet I found myself finding things to do just so I could listen to the rest of the story. I’m really not a religious person so I expected a lot of the negative reviews on this story from the uber-religious people on Goodreads, but for me when I finished this I thought of how a story always has two sides. I haven’t read the Bible, but I’m assuming that Mary is put forth in a very shining light within its pages, so in this story we get her real story. It was like her Facebook persona versus real life. I absolutely LOVED this story. It was weird reading this as a mother because Mary’s son (we all know who) is pretty much an asshole in this story and I felt so much for Mary. Honestly, I could’ve listened to many more hours of this story and just wanted more of Mary. She was a real person in this story, not just the angelic figure we always see in paintings. I wouldn’t say this made me interested at all in reading the Bible, but I mean, maybe if Meryl Streep narrated it I’d give it a whirl.
Behind a Mask, or, A Woman’s Power by A. M. Barnard (a.k.a. Louisa May Alcott) (117 pages)
Last month I read another one of Louisa May Alcott’s thrillers published under the pseudonym A. M. Barnard and really enjoyed it (A Long Fatal Love Chase), so I thought I’d pick up another one this month for Novellas in November. I’m not even really sure what to think of this novel. It was fun to read and super quick, but definitely a bit silly. I’m not going to be like many other reviewers and say that it’s nothing like Little Women because OBVIOUSLY, but I can’t say that it’s one of my top Alcott reads. I can see how it would be a thriller, but seriously – the men in this story are basically all in love with the main character and don’t seem to have a thought in their heads. I think another problem with the story is that it’s super predictable, though it could definitely be a controversial read for its time. This is a great read if you want something silly and mindless but I could hardly recommend it if you’re new to Alcott’s writings that aren’t Little Women.
What I’m Currently Reading
I am currently reading and really enjoying O Pioneers! by Willa Cather. I got a few chapters into this and had to look up more Willa Cather and nearly spend $200 on new books before scolding myself. I just love the writing in this book. I’m only about 50 pages in and just into the second part but I can definitely see this being a favourite.
What have you read so far for Novellas in November? Is there anything you could recommend? What has been a favourite?