Tag Archives: novella

The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing

DATE FINISHED: August 4th, 2012 

RATED: **** (4.5)

SYNOPSIS:  Harriet and David are instinctively drawn to each other through a mutual yearning to play traditional happy families. They marry almost immediately, stretch their finances to live in an enormous home, and Harriet gives birth to four normal, healthy children amidst a whirl of family gatherings and old-fashioned support. Ben, the fifth child, is different even before he is born, torturing Harriet from within; and then after birth, immediately proves himself insatiable, brutal, ‘other’. Harriet and David become convinced that Ben is not quite human – somehow a throwback from an ancient, primitive race, and untameable. In the face of this indomitable force of nature, their carefully constructed family idyll begins to crumble…

THOUGHTS:  The story of this unearthly cuckoo in the nest, threatens all sanguinity. Read more of this post

All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman

DATE FINISHED: July 28th, 2012 

RATED: **** (4.5)

SYNOPSIS:  On their wedding night, Tom becomes invisible to his wife, The Perfectionist. After six months of waiting for Tom’s return, The Perfectionist buys a plane ticket and a new apartment in a new city. Invisibly, Tom sits next to his wife throughout the plane journey trying to think of ways to make her see him. Time is running out – will he discover his own superhero power in time?

THOUGHTS:  At first glance, this is a not very subtle but quirkily humorous story about the characters we build in order to survive everyday life. A superhero power exists for every strategy, defence, and pigeonhole Read more of this post

Snake by Kate Jennings

DATE FINISHED: July 25th, 2012 

RATED: **** (4.5)

SYNOPSIS:  This is the story of a marriage between polar opposites, dissatisfaction snaking through it from the start.  Rex is a solid man of earth, accepting of disappointments, and simply looking to settle into his own corner of land.  Irene is flighty as the air and soon resentful of the man and life she has tied herself to.  As the children grow up, Rex and Irene grow further apart under a scorching, suffocating sun.

THOUGHTS:  This deceptively simple story is built up through a chain of vividly realised images – the stark landscape, the hollow lives, the hope and the melancholy. Read more of this post

Pobby and Dingan by Ben Rice

DATE FINISHED: July 24th, 2012 

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  When Kellyanne’s imaginary friends disappear, she quickly slides into a mysterious illness. Although big brother Ashmol has never believed in Pobby and Dingan himself, he decides that the only way to cure her is to get the rest of their small mining town out looking for the missing invisibles, to prove to Kellyanne that people care. But will the plan work?  At the same time, their father is accused of ‘ratting’ at the local opal mines, and must contend with a swell of local opinion against him as his daughter wastes away before his eyes…

THOUGHTS:  Although on the surface this is a sentimental premise, Rice neatly avoids cliché in its telling. Read more of this post

The Book of Colour by Julia Blackburn

DATE FINISHED: July 24th, 2012 

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  When the family is cursed by a ‘devil’ islander, the narrator’s grandfather as a boy is uprooted from the home he has known and transplanted into an alternative island life, now under the care of his uncle and ‘his mulatto’, while his father stays behind, and his mother is placed in an asylum.  A history of curses, mixed race unions and cultural bigotry haunts the family through generations.

THOUGHTS:  In the first part of the book some intriguing images are introduced but the characters appear as though within a dream or trance-like state.  In the second part of the book, however, the narrative becomes more linear Read more of this post

A True Story Based on Lies by Jennifer Clement

DATE FINISHED: July 19th, 2012 

RATED: **** (4.5)

SYNOPSIS:  Leonora is raised on Mexican folklore, its rhythm in her blood. After studying at a convent she is taken on as maid and nanny to a well-off couple, but when she falls pregnant by her employer, Mr. O’ Connor, she must give up her child to the couple for the sake of society and appearance. Aura Olivia calls Mrs O’ Connor mother, but Leonora’s blood courses through the household’s veins. In a house full of women, sometimes it is hard to know exactly where the power lies…

THOUGHTS:  Although set only decades ago, Clement’s prose has a timeless, storybook feel. Read more of this post

Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith

DATE FINISHED: June 22nd, 2012 

RATED: ****

SYNOPSIS:  Anthea can’t find any enthusiasm for the Pure corporation for whom her increasingly thin sister Midge has found her work. She is fascinated, though, by the mysterious messages that have begun to be graffiti-d around town and the person who paints them. That the person is a girl doesn’t phase Anthea in the slightest, and she is happy to sink into a mutually joyful relationship with Robin who regales her with the story of the boy-girl/girl-boy from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Iphis. Midge is horrified, but when Pure reveals itself as less than, she is forced to re-evaluate everything.

THOUGHTS:  Released as one of the Canongate Myths series (in which established authors re-write old myths for a new audience), Smith has written a wonderful love story that captures the happiness of Ovid’s original whilst relating it to utterly contemporary themes. Read more of this post

The Dream Room by Marcel Moring

DATE FINISHED: May 24th, 2012

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  Narrated by a 12 year old boy, in a period following WW2, David and his family spend a summer constructing model aeroplanes for their landlord, a toy shop owner.  After hearing stories about his father’s exploits during the war, leading up to how his parents met, the visit of an old friend, Humbert Coe, presents the key to previously unspoken family secrets.

THOUGHTS: This short but poignant novel has the feeling of a fable, Read more of this post

Illusions by Richard Bach

DATE FINISHED: April 23rd, 2011

RATED: ***

SYNOPSIS: Donald Shimoda, has quit his role as Messiah, bored with the crowds who craved miracles but would not listen. Making ends meet by selling short flights in his bi-plane, Richard meets Donald in a field in Illinois, and through their conversations, Richard learns what it is to be the Messiah.

THOUGHTS: Read more of this post

The Seas by Samantha Hunt

DATE FINISHED: March 24th, 2011

RATED: ****

SYNOPSIS: The unnamed narrator believes she is a mermaid.  She is also in love with war-damaged Jude who holds himself apart from her.  According to legend, the mortal who will not marry a mermaid will be killed.  She does not want to kill Jude, but words have a way of winning…

THOUGHTS: Read more of this post