Novellas in November – Wrap Up Post

So when I signed up for Rick’s Novellas in November challenge, I did it without thinking much about it and without expecting much from it. I chose five novellas that I would like to read but didn’t really expect that I would make it.
But now, November is over, Christmas is fast approaching – and I can happily report that not only did I read all the novellas I had planned, I enjoyed myself quite a bit more than expected.
Now normally I prefer my fiction to be longer. I don’t shy away from reading 1000+ pages books and I like getting to spend a lot of time with the characters and really get to know them. But since my life now includes a full-time job as well as a boyfriend, two kids, a dog, a hamster and three bunnies, things tend to get rather busy around here. And as I’ve written about before, I sometimes have a hard time staying awake when I read at night in bed which is where I do most of my reading. I first tried to fix that by reading brain candy in the shape of urban fantasy but throughout the month of November I’ve learned that novellas are also a way of fixing it.
I’ve really enjoyed reading these novellas and I have been so impressed with how much the authors could do in so few pages. And when you only make it through five pages some nights, it is a comfort to know that the book you’re reading is only 125 pages and not 1400!
So thank you Rick for hosting this – I hope we can do it again next year!
9781907773402frcvr.indd CABBAGES AND KINGS, Steinbeck - Cover pidab4370cda966432@large colm-toibin-the-testament-of-mary DOCTOR GREENLAW AND THE ZULU PRINCESS, Steinbeck - Cover
Here’s the five novellas I read during this event with links to my reviews:

I had expected that Magda would be my favorite but instead I really liked both The Uncommon Reader and The Testament of Mary and these are both books I would like to read again at a later time. I’m still intrigued by the story of Magda Goebbels but this novella was good but not quite as good as I had hoped.
I end this challenge with a very good feeling about shorter fiction. Who knows, I might even be persuaded to try a short story collection soon!

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Thomas Steinbeck: Cabbages and Kings (review)

CABBAGES AND KINGS, Steinbeck - Cover‘The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings, and why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings.’ (p. 55)

So when I was contacted by Post Hill Press and asked if I wanted to read some new novellas by John Steinbeck’s son Thomas Steinbeck, I was interested just because of the name. And then I read the synopsis and thought it sounded kind of like fantasy and thought that could be really interesting.
Of course, Thomas Steinbeck is his father’s son and of course, he didn’t write fantasy. He writes realistic fiction, set in the early 20th century and dealing with people in trouble.
Titus Gatelock is a man whom no one really knows. He never cares what anyone says about him and even when people start saying that he was a bandit and that he was part of a famous train robbery, he just smiles and shakes his head and says, ‘There’s real history and real truth out there everywhere, but when it bumps heads with a whopping good yarn that everybody enjoys, then the truth is sure to cross the line in last place every time.’ (p. 1-2)
But Titus is a good man. He does good things for the people around him and he’s almost a second father to the two boys living close by, Lobosito and our narrator. These two boys strike up a strong friendship despite the differences in their circumstances. The narrator’s father own a ranch, Titus is a tenant on it and he hires the mexican man and woman who are Lobosito’s parents to help him out. But the friendship between the boys never wavers, despite them making different choices with their lives they always stay close and work together towards a common goal. Especially as time gets rough, banks falter and people start starving. And it’s clear from the way Titus and the boys’ parents behave that they don’t have this from strangers.
There are several great things in this novella. I loved how Titus gets the two boys to dig a lot of holes for apple trees while making them believe they were digging for treasure – and then making them believe that they themselves come up with the idea of planting apple trees. And the pig, oh my, the pig. Titus has a pig, a heavy cast iron thing which he paints – and others paints – in various garish colors – thereby naming it The Speckled Pig of Destiny. That pig was amazing!
So this was a really good read. I went into it not really knowing what to expect but when I had finished and had read the last page, I was really impressed. I can’t compare Thomas to John, in part because what I love most of John’s work, are the long novels (East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath) and this was only 59 pages – but mostly because it’s not really fair to do so. Even though this book takes place close to Salinas Valley where John was born and which he used as a setting for some of his books. And the type of person the author seems to be based on his work, seem to be impressive for both father and son. Suffice to say, that I think it’s definitely worth reading both Steinbecks.

‘My only responsibilities are to treat my fellow creatures with appropriate respect, do the best work I can do for those requiring my services, and treat all people as honestly as I would lie to be treated myself. And lastly, if possible, harm no one on my journey through life. Nothing else is anyone’s business.’ (p. 22)

First line: Titus Gatelock was well known to just about everybody around King City who possessed a horse, a mule, or any close approximation with “four legs and a whiny”; though this commonly used phrase would be highly misleading in the case of Mr. Gatelock.

  • Title: Cabbages and Kings
  • Author: Thomas Steinbeck
  • Publisher: Post Hill Press
  • Year: 2013
  • Pages:  59 pages
  • Source: Review copy – kindle
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

I read this for Rick’s Novellas in November challenge.

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