Novellas in November is being hosted by Rick at The Book-A-Week Project and co-hosted by Laura at Reading In Bed. There is also a Novella November going on over at Poppy Peacock Pens. I thought it would be fun to try to fit some in this year. Here are the first three I could get my hands on, while I wait for some of my other requests to come in (I might be having my own little Novellas in December…).
This was my first experience reading Albert Camus, so before I started writing this I got adventurous and googled the book and the author to dig deeper into the meaning of it all. But, then I thought, not worth it – there was just so much. So, I’m just going to say what I think of the book based on nothing; just me having read the book.
The Stranger starts out with the death of the protagonist’s mother. Meursault doesn’t seem to be upset, but I thought maybe he was numb and that his grief would show up later in the book. In fact, I thought it might be about Meursault dealing with his grief (I really didn’t know anything about this book going in). But, in the end, he just didn’t seem to care. And, he doesn’t seem to care about anything that goes on; he’s fine with his neighbour’s abusive behaviour of his dog; he doesn’t care that his other neighbour beats his girlfriend. Even when his own girlfriend asks if he loves her, he tells her that he doesn’t but that he’d marry her anyway if she wants. The shocking thing is that she decides she wants to.
That evening Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had the last time, that it didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t love her.
Because of his indifference to everything, he ends up going along with his friend/neighbour (not out of friendship, but only because he has nothing else to do), and ends up getting into trouble. Unfortunately, though, because he doesn’t care about anything, I didn’t care what happened to him (and he didn’t seem to care what happened to himself). And, that’s about it. It’s not that I didn’t like the book, but only that I had a hard time caring about it. I’m sure that if I dug deeper into the meaning of the story, I would find some interesting things to think about, but on the surface that’s all there was for me.
… for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself – so like a brother, really – I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again.
He was a strange guy, I felt sorry for him, I wanted to shake him up somehow, I wanted to warn his girlfriend away, and I wanted to punch his friend for being such an idiot.
I didn’t know this book existed until I was doing a quick sweep of the library shelves looking for thin volumes that I might be interested in for Novellas in November. Bonus that it’s Canadian.
Except that I didn’t like it very much. A lot of it went over my head, but from what I could grasp it was basically about a mentally unstable middle-aged businessman looking for ways to numb his life; pill popping, drinking, and cheating on his wife. This is nothing new, really, except that this guy’s biggest fault was that he liked young girls, and in particular a 15-year-old girl in his son’s class. Even though she made the first advances, he should have… well, we all know what he should have done. But, of course, he did the opposite of that. None of it ends well. Luckily, it was only 111 pages.
Pills, they answered questions. Booze only asked why, how did this happen and do you love me? Pills replied with a pretty smile, a glossy kiss, a powdery happy softness. The wonderful muted fear, the knowledge, the anxiety and starvation and slaughter just far enough from the perverse, an itch at most. That was the chemical. They answered; yes, they answered, it’s okay; and something that sounded like “I love you” too.
… it was hard to choose between that which kept you safe and that which kept you happy – and tormented.
Quite a few people on Goodreads have given this book 4 or 5 stars, so I’m either missing something or it just wasn’t my thing. The writing was good, though, and there were some good lines and passages. I would love to know if anyone else has read this, and what they thought of it.
On Goodreads the page count for this book is 336, but the copy I have is only 160. Huh. We’ll go with my count and call it a novella.
This book was a little more fun than the last two. At a restaurant one night, a woman dies of cyanide poisoning. The next year, her husband gathers up all the same guests in the same restaurant at the same table in hopes of revealing the killer, but something else happens instead…
Believe it or not, this is my first Agatha Christie novel. All I knew going into it is that most people like her a lot. And that she is one of Eva’s go-to authors. I can see why, especially if you like mysteries. I was surprised by how much insight into humans and their interactions Christie was able to pack into such a short book with so many characters. And, I really didn’t know who had done it until the end. At one point or another I suspected everyone on the list.
Frightening, really, how little you might know a person after living in the same house with them.
Most successes are unhappy. That’s why they are successes – they have to reassure themselves about themselves by achieving something that the world will notice… The happy people are failures because they are on such good terms with themselves that they don’t give a damn.
I don’t think Sparkling Cyanide is one of her better known books (I had never heard of it, anyway), so I’m curious to try another one to see how it compares. One thing that did strike me is the dated feel of it. You can tell it was written a while ago, because of the obvious stereotypes around gender, class, and people ‘from away’. But, that actually made it more interesting to me.
So, how about you? Have you read any good novellas lately? Do you have a favourite? What about a favourite Agatha Christie novel?