‘One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug.’– The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
I wrote a ‘Writing Reflections’ post recently about why my recently-published book, All the Orphans in the Galaxy, was a novella and not a novel. There’s a lot more in that post about what exactly a novella is (essentially, longer than a short story, shorter than a novel!) and why I think it’s such a good form for experimentation. You don’t have to ‘commit’ to one thing for too long and you can really focus and zoom in on just a couple of characters (or a really unique premise!).
In that post, I also mentioned that lots of my favorite books are actually novellas. I thought I’d recommend a few of them here!
It was hard to choose these my favorite novellas. There are many great novellas out there, both historical and recent. Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a 1958 novella before it was a movie. Animal Farm was a novella (and one I really liked!). Wide Sargasso Sea is an excellent, dreamy little novella. It’s a super varied and flexible length, which many writers make great use of.
But here are three novellas that I’d call my ‘favorites’:
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Does this selection surprise anyone? Probably not. It’s my favorite book so it’s obviously going to be on my list of favorite novellas! It’s short and sweet and SO fun to read.
It’s totally wacky, and it’s got such a big heart. My novella wasn’t directly inspired by A Christmas Carol, but I think some of the zanier details in my book – for example, a three-headed alien selling frozen yoghurt – I feel like were probably inspired by Dickens just going for it. Ghosts! Lots of them! Zooming around in the past and present!
If you want to know more of my thoughts on A Christmas Carol, check out this previous post here.
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
You KNOW that I have to have a Scottish author here! If I’m honest, I’ve not read this one in over a decade, but I loved it when I studied it at university and it even inspired one of my best Halloween costumes ever when I was both Jekyll AND Hyde (top hat and cane, with half my face painted green and spooky etc. and half normal). When my boyfriend at the time (who wasn’t particularly nice) expressed his dismay that I was dressed as a man and not, as he had suggested, ‘a sexy cat’, I replied that I was not dressed as a man. I was dressed as two men.
But it all seriousness this is a really cool and spooky book which is very atmospheric and a bit of a mystery too. It’s a cool premise and such a human dilemma: having to put on this respectable front but having these violent impulses running wild inside. Stevenson said: ‘I had long been trying to write a story on this subject, to find a body, a vehicle for that strong sense of man’s double being which must at times come in upon and overwhelm the mind of every thinking creature.’
If you want to learn more about the real historical man who inspired the story, then you can check out this post about my explorations of The Royal Mile here in Edinburgh.
And speaking of monstrous beings…
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
This is a brilliant book. If you’ve read it, you’ll know. If you haven’t, you’ve probably heard of the story: a guy named Gregor wakes up one morning to find that he’s been transformed into a giant bug. (It’s commonly represented as a cockroach but I don’t think it’s ever explicitly named in the book?). It’s about his alienation from his family after that and what they choose to do with him.
It’s actually pretty disturbing and quite visceral with the descriptions. It’s such an outlandish premise that I don’t think it would be served by being any longer (I’m not sure how much longer I could stand it for! Poor Gregor!!). If you’ve not checked this one out, I’d recommend it. All of these ones I’ve mentioned are ‘classics’ for a reason.
And there you have it – a couple of excellent novellas which just also happen to be excellent books. I’m a pretty omnivorous reader. I like short stories, novels, novellas, essays, memoirs, non-fiction and, of course, poetry! And I think lots of other readers actually are too.
Have you read any of these novellas? What did you think about them? Do you have a favorite novella (historical or contemporary)?
I will be taking a break from this blog for all of January 2023 and will be back after that with more ‘Madeira Mondays’ historical posts, more ‘Friday Finds’ recommendations, and other sorts of posts too!
Thank you to everyone who has read this blog throughout the year (and for several years!). If you like the blog and wish to support it, please consider ‘buying me a coffee’ on Ko-fi (button below) and/or checking out my books. My novella, All the Orphans in the Galaxy, was just published last month and you can get one here. Or check out my poetry pamphlet, Anastasia, Look in the Mirror, which came out in 2020.
Thank you so much for reading and happy new year!
PS Today’s (rather dramatic) Featured Image is an advertisement for a 1920 American film adaptation of Stevenson’s novella, via Wikimedia.
5 thoughts on “Friday Finds: My three favorite novellas”
Enjoy your break from the blog but come back soon 😉 Happy New Year! 🙂
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Thanks! Happy New Year to you! 😀
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You are most welcome and thank you!! 🙂
Howdy. My wife recently read a good novella: The Country Of The Pointed Firs, by Sarah Orne Jewett. Neil S.
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Hello! Thanks for your comment. I hadn’t heard of this book but just looked it up and it sounds like my cup of tea. I will check it out! Thanks a lot and happy new year. – Carly