The Novella Club discussion

Your favorite novella?

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message 1: by J.M. (last edited Jun 01, 2012 07:21AM) (new)

J.M. Moris (jmmoris) | 5 comments Just curious. Mine would probably be the classic "The Yellow Wallpaper," though it's been a while since I read it. I found it to be an interesting commentary on marriage and women's rights in its era.

J.M. Moris
Author of My Indian Queen, a novella

message 2: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
There are too many to choose from.

Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Short Novel and Three Stories has always had a special place in my heart. We just read that in this group.

The Uncommon Reader a lovely little book about books - very funny.

The Aspern Papers classic Henry James, set in Venice.

The Invisible Man one of the greatest of all H. G. Wells (the master).

Bonjour Tristesse - bittersweet novella.

These are just a few.

message 3: by J.M. (new)

J.M. Moris (jmmoris) | 5 comments Good selection! I've marked "The Uncommon Reader" as to-read, based on your suggestion. Looks witty and entertaining!

message 4: by Lora (new)

Lora (lorabanora) Yes, the Uncommon Reader was quite a fun read. It's been ages since I read The Invisible Man. Iw as so moved by it when I was a kid...I don't know if I want to mess with that memory by reading it again.
Some of my favorite short reads:
84 Charing Cross (thanks to this group!)
The Screwtape Letters

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

My daughter had to read Herland for a English class, but she wasn't very impressed with it. I think it's one of those books that are either loved, or not.

message 6: by Kelsey (new)

Kelsey | 3 comments Two favorites that come to mind are The Red Pony by John Steinbeck and The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Although I'm sure there are some other favorites of mine that i've failed to remember right now.

message 7: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Kelsey wrote: "Two favorites that come to mind are The Red Pony by John Steinbeck and The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Although I'm sure there are some other favorites of mine that i've failed to reme..."

Kelsey, I enjoyed both of those - especially "The Red Pony."

message 8: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
A story from the Los Angeles Times:

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Thank you, Ivan. I was trying to defend the novella to a GR friend just the other day. She prefers a good, long novel, but I'm coming to really appreciate a well-written novella.

message 10: by Lora (new)

Lora (lorabanora) The rise of the long novel- what started that, anyway? I like 'em, but I miss the shorter stuff sometimes, too.

message 11: by Richard (new)

Richard Sutton (richardsutton) | 6 comments Philip Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

message 12: by Lora (new)

Lora (lorabanora) I found that novel very moving. All that hanging around pet shops looking at android ostriches, and then thinking he caught a reminded me of so many levels of the wanting for things we don't get to have.

message 13: by Richard (new)

Richard Sutton (richardsutton) | 6 comments ... and to think from that came "Blade Runner" Huh?

message 14: by Edel (new)

Edel (edellittlebookfairy) | 71 comments 84 Charing Cross Road and A Christmas Carol are the joint winners for me .

message 15: by Lora (new)

Lora (lorabanora) least if the movie people changed it that much, they didn't run it under the same title as the book. I hate when that happens.
Great music, too.

message 16: by Ivan (last edited Jan 12, 2013 05:24AM) (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
I think it was the great Ira Levin who insisted they keep his original titles (even if the movie sucked) because it kept "his" title in the public consciousness.

message 17: by Laszlo (new)

Laszlo (steampunk) | 7 comments The Giver by Lois Lowry is a beautiful book about totalitarianism and modern society, and showing its effects on the future.

message 18: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) Mine is Aura by Carlos Fuentes. Out of print (in translation) unfortunately.

message 19: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Jessica wrote: "Mine is Aura by Carlos Fuentes. Out of print (in translation) unfortunately."

It sounds interesting.

message 20: by J.A. (new)

J.A. Pak I really liked Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as well. I recently read The Divine Invasion and that was an interesting contrast.

Some of my favorite novellas are Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Ivan Turgenev's Torrents of Spring, Mikhail Burgakov's Heart of a Dog, Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, Junichiro Tanizaki's The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi...

message 21: by Ivan (last edited Jan 12, 2013 01:09PM) (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Seance on a Wet Afternoon by Mark McShane is another favorite. A great crime novel - or suspense, whatever they call the genre - or is it a genre within a genre?

message 22: by Ben (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) | 85 comments So many great ones - Dream Story by Arthur Schnitzler, Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress, The Miracle Workers by Jack Vance, , The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe, Ethan Frome by Wharton are all great examples. It may be a little above the "novella" length and moving into short novel territory but Wildlife by Richard Ford is superb.

message 23: by ron (new)

ron swegman (ronpiscator) | 3 comments .

Ben --


I agree that Wildlife is wonderful; spare and haunting. If you are a fan of Richard Ford (I'm reading Canada now), you might also enjoy Thomas McGuane. He has a profound novella -- "The Refugee" -- in his most recent collection of stories, Gallatin Canyon.

-- ron P.

message 24: by Ben (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) | 85 comments Thanks Ron, planning on reading Canada soon although I may go for Lay of the Land first. Will check out Thomas McGuane - never even heard of him before so well worth checking out.

message 25: by Ben (last edited Feb 13, 2013 02:33PM) (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) | 85 comments have ordered Gallatin Canyon online so will give it a try over the next couple of weeks - Read it any enjoying it very much thanks - will move on to reading the other stories in the collection over the next few weeks.

message 26: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy | 1 comments Herman Melville's Benito Cereno and Billy Budd are two of my favorites.

message 27: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
So many writers I have yet to read. Melville's Billy Budd is one I've meant to read for years. Sir Peter Ustinov wrote/directed/starred in brilliant film (1962) Billy was played by Terrance Stamp and Robert Ryan gave his career best performance as Claggert, Ustinov was the Captain.

message 28: by Mmars (new)

Mmars | 588 comments Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez is excellent. I really, really liked Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

And....I've got to get to Melville someday.

message 29: by Julia (new)

Julia (juliastrimer) I always loved "The Little Prince" by St. Exupery--it might even be short for a novella, but it helped my students understand allegory really well. 2013 is the 70th anniversary of this lovely fable.

message 30: by Julia (last edited Sep 18, 2013 06:57AM) (new)

Julia (juliastrimer) Wide Sargasso Sea has always intrigued me, since I love Jane Eyre. The idea of telling the backstory of a character from a novel is appealing, and in helping us understand Antoinette Cosway, Rhys deepens my grasp on the more famous Bronte novel.

message 31: by Mmars (new)

Mmars | 588 comments Just remembered Annie John as one of my favorites. Great sense of place/descriptives.

message 32: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Mmars wrote: "Just remembered Annie John as one of my favorites. Great sense of place/descriptives."

I encourage you to nominate it next time - it sounds wonderful.

message 33: by Mmars (new)

Mmars | 588 comments Will do. I'd like to reread it.

message 34: by Jacke (new)

Jacke Wilson | 2 comments For years I've said that The End of the Affair is my favorite novel. Yesterday I noticed it on a list of novellas. (I had known it was short and a fast read but had attributed that to Greene's economic prose, not merely a low word count.)

Hmmm... maybe that means I like novellas better than novels!

message 35: by Julia (last edited Oct 11, 2013 07:53PM) (new)

Julia (juliastrimer) It's 10:30 p.m. and I just read The Testament of Mary, and I can't sleep. I was not prepared for the power of this slim novella (just 81 pages). The section on Lazarus stripped that story into horror, as did the rest of the book.

The NY Times book review said: "The Testament of Mary is a beautiful and daring work. Originally performed as a one-woman show in Dublin, it takes its power from the surprises of its language, its almost shocking characterization, its austere refusal of consolation. The source of this mother’s grief is as much the nature of humankind as the cruel fate of her own son. Her prayers are directed not to Yahweh but to Artemis, Greek not Jewish, chaste goddess of the hunt and of fertility, but no one’s mother. Mary’s final word on her son’s life and death is the bleak declaration: “It was not worth it.”

When I realized this small book began as a one-woman show, I could understand it better as a long monologue, which reveals Toibin's Mary as more of a sister to Clytemnestra rather than the usual religious interpretation. My heart has always understood Clytemnestra's horror at the sacrifice of her daughter Iphigenia--and, being part of the Greek system of vengeance, her killing of Agamemnon felt justified to me. Anyone who loves a child can understand the agony of watching that child deliberately slaughtered.

But Toibin's Mary is no Greek--one of the most poignant parts is when she takes total blame for failing to stay with her son to the end. She admits that she only thought of saving her own life, and is ashamed of herself for doing so.

I'm not sure if 81 pages would even qualify this book to be nominated for our group--even though it is shortlisted for the Man Booker. And I wouldn't want to nominate it, personally. It's too private, too personal--I can't imagine having a "discussion" of this work. It's left me silent and speechless and sleepless. This Mary speaks so powerfully to the cry of every mother in history whose child has been sacrificed to some "cause"--and that cry cuts so deeply.

message 36: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Julia wrote: "It's 10:30 p.m. and I just read The Testament of Mary, and I can't sleep. I was not prepared for the power of this slim novella (just 81 pages). The section on Lazarus stripped that story into horr..."

"It's too private, too personal - I can't imagine having a discussion of this work."

Wow - that's a powerful endorsement. The winner will be named on the 17th - perhaps Toibin will finally win. I've read two or three of his works - which I liked very much, but not this - yet.

It's funny that we are talking about Henry James and Toibin's The Master was about him - and I couldn't get into it (tried twice - perhaps some day)[besides, everyone knows "The Master" is H. G. Wells - don't they?].

message 37: by Ben (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) | 85 comments the other good reads group we are both in Julia actually discussed it a few months ago so you might want to check out the discussions some time in the future. I have not yet had the pleasure to read this work myself but might order it from the local library or buy it before too long.

message 38: by Julia (new)

Julia (juliastrimer) Thanks, Ben--I'll check that out. I posted this on the Book Vipers site, but it's worth a repeat here imho:

"I just found the short youtube interview with Fiona Shaw and Colm Toibin; she played Mary on Broadway.

I'm stunned that Christian protestors shut this play down after 2 weeks of a 12 week run! I'm appalled that a production which received 3 Tony award nominations was vilified in this way.

Fiona Shaw is one of the best actresses in the world (amazing that they got her to play Mrs. Dursley in the Harry Potter films). I was lucky enough to see her play Medea at Ann Arbor Power Center, and I've never forgotten it.

Meryl Streep has done the audiobook, but I wish Fiona Shaw had been the reader. I love Streep's work, but there is an "Irishness" about the dark thread of sorrow in Toibin's Mary that needs an Irish voice to express it, imho."

message 39: by Edel (new)

Edel (edellittlebookfairy) | 71 comments Julia wrote: "Thanks, Ben--I'll check that out. I posted this on the Book Vipers site, but it's worth a repeat here imho:

"I just found the short youtube interview with Fiona Shaw and Colm Toibin; she played Ma..."

Although not an actress. Edna O Brien would be great in the role.

message 40: by Mmars (last edited Oct 12, 2013 11:48AM) (new)

Mmars | 588 comments Only Toibin I've read is "Broolyn." Was very good. It sounds like he's outdone himself in "Testament." Julia, you react to some books like I react to some movies.

message 41: by Ben (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) | 85 comments this is part of the Guardian "hustings" series - its a short video arguing that this book should will the booker.

message 42: by Julia (new)

Julia (juliastrimer) Thanks, Ben--I just listened to the "hustings" for all five books, and certainly each speaker feels the selection they discussed wins the award.

As for me, I consider them all winners; trying to compare these five is almost impossible, since each is unique.

And Mmars, I'd love to know what film has moved you as I was affected by The Testament of
--left speechless and floundering my way back to "reality"!

message 43: by Mmars (new)

Mmars | 588 comments Julia, Since the book "The Master" is in discussion, the film of same title starring Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman as a pseudo-L. Ron Hubbard comes to mind. Phoenix performance made me want to come up for air. Dennis Hopper in "Blue Velvet" did that also. Last night Isaw "Gravity" and the tension made me want to jump out of my skin. In general, visuals can disturb me for days and longer. Reading can do that, too, but at least I create my own impression.

message 44: by Julia (new)

Julia (juliastrimer) Know exactly what you mean, Mmars--I no longer go to films in movie theaters (many reasons--my eyesight, sound too loud, cell phone panels lit up all over). And I even watch dvd's with my mute and fast forward buttons close at hand.

I was moved by The Testament of Mary, but not in a disturbing way--more of a sense of connection to a mother's sorrow and anger. I'm not sure if I COULD it as a stage performance, even though I really like Fiona Shaw.

You have a great point--in reading, our brains make our own "visuals", and the brain won't create images it can't handle, unless something is wrong with it. Another side effect of visuals is that it's almost impossible to get my own pictures back.

My students told me once they wished I hadn't shown them the film of Lord of the Flies (the great Peter Brook b&w version from 1963). They'd had their own pictures of the characters, but once they saw the film, those were the images in their minds.

message 46: by A.M. (new)

A.M. Oldroyd | 19 comments I'd add 'Schrodinger's Telephone' by Marion Stein & 'Whitstable' by Stephen Volk to the list.

message 47: by Ronald (new)

Ronald (rpdwyer) | 16 comments My favorite novella is Monte Verita by Daphne duMaurier:

That story enthralled me.

message 48: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 568 comments I've read only the great Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Monte Verita seems to be virtually unknown.

message 49: by Mmars (new)

Mmars | 588 comments I got on a Daphne du Maurier kick earlier this year. I'm not familiar with the novella you mentioned, Ronald. Need to look into it.

This is such a hard question for me. There are so many books I have read over time, and the length never used to concern me. I never really thought of short books as novellas. I will say, however, that I've been impressed by many of the books we've read in this group and that I likely would never have read many of them without the group reads.

I highly recommend the first book I read with this group. "A Month in the Country."

message 50: by Ivan (last edited May 29, 2014 01:46AM) (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Well, if I just say "a favorite" instead of "my favorite" I seem to do better with this question. Picking just one as a favorite is like walking into a field of wildflowers and having to choose.

I have too many favorites.

I always liked "Ballad of the Sad Café" - but "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is my stand-by - my old friend.

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