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!
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!
Lately my cultural life has somehow gotten a common theme. And not a nice theme. Recently the latest – and maybe last – movie by the Danish director Niels Malmros has gotten a lot of attention in Danish medias since it’s a very personal movie about his personal life and how his wife killed their infant daughter 29 years ago. His wife suffered from manic depression which had turned into a psychosis. It seems to be a strong and powerful story about love and how you don’t need to forgive someone if you never blamed them in the first place. This has caused other similar stories to appear. On top of that, I just read a book where a mother kills her baby – and now I’m reading Magda; a book about Magda Goebbels and how she killed all six of her children. I wouldn’t mind a happier theme soon!
I never knew about Magda Goebbels and what she did before watching Der Untergang. In this movie, there’s a very powerful scene where we watches Magda kill five of her children in their sleep by giving them poison and then forcing her eldest who wakes up and realizes what’s going on, to also ingest the poison. And when I then heard that Meike Ziervogel had written about Magda, I definitely knew I had to read that book. Magda is just a short book, a 115 pages novella. In this short span of pages, Ziervogel both deals with Magda’s childhood and difficult relationship with her mother and the father who left, as well as Magda’s love life and her first meeting with Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels. The story is told both from Magda herself, from her mother and in diary pages from Magda’s oldest daughter, Helga. We get to experience what life was in the Führer Bunker in the final days in Berlin in World War II and what it’s like to be a teenage girl experiencing first love in rather unfortunate circumstances as well as a mother’s dread for what will happen with her children after the war if they are named Goebbels.
While this for me definitely was a powerful read that left my lying awake after finishing it and being slightly disturbed by Magda’s action and wondering what – if anything – she could have done otherwise and reflecting on what I would have done in the same situation – and what a mother must feel, killing her six children, the book was not as good as I had hoped. I think it would have benefitted from more pages – there was simply too much story, too many details, too many viewpoints and too much sadness for 115 pages.
I also couldn’t help comparing it to Beloved and the far stronger story of a former slave who kills her daughter to save her from becoming a slave. The action is the same. Magda even does it in a much kinder way – but still I feel more for the mother in Beloved, maybe because you were forced to become a slave, you were not forced to become a Nazi. And I know that’s not completely fair or even true but I think that’s why. Or maybe it’s just because that Magda, while being a very good read, just isn’t as good a read as Beloved. Still, I recommend reading both as they are both interesting and thought provoking.
First line: Magda enters Joseph’s study without knocking.
So I’m so very much behind on reading the books I had planned to read this year but so what. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for another challenge, does it? (It doesn’t but it really should!)
So when Rick from Another Book Blog decided to make November the month for reading novellas, I thought ‘that isn’t for me’. And then ignored it. Right up to the moment I decided to sign up for the thing…
So here we are. I’m going to do the thing and read some novellas in November and it’s not because novellas are short and are going to boost my number of books read this year – or because I have been offered a review copy of three novellas by the son of John Steinbeck, Thomas Steinbeck. Well, not only because of these two reasons. It’s mostly because some of the novellas Rick mentioned sounded amazing – and then I stumbled across another novella that sounded like an absolute must-read for me – and then I got offered the review copy … and they are short … So with all these perfectly valid reasons, how could I resist?!
So here are my list of novellas that I hope to read in November:
Alan Bennet: The Uncommon Reader. The Queen has lost one of her puppies and while searching for it, she finds a mobile library. She feels obliged to borrow a book and discovers the pleasures of reading. This is one of Rick’s picks and it is also one I already have on my to-read list so of course I have to put this on my list.
Thomas Steinbeck: Cabbages and Kings and Dr. Greenlaw and the Zulu Princess. So I love John Steinbeck. And although it’s so unfair to him to compare him to his father, I am willing to give him a chance because of his father. Besides, the synopsis actually sounds interesting.
Colm Tóibín: The Testament of Mary. So this one is another one of the ones I got inspired to by Rick. It’s the story of Mary who has a completely different view of her son than the rest of the world – and blames herself for fleeing from her son’s crucifixion to save herself. It sounds fascinating!
Meike Ziervogel: Magda. This was on the shortlist for the Not the Booker prize (which I’m actually not sure what is). It’s about Joseph Goebbel’s wife Magda; the woman, who killed her six children. The scene where she kills her children in Der Untergang, just left me … I have no words for what I was feeling when watching that. But I so want to read this novella!
So five novellas – I don’t think I can handle any more than these five.
I really hope that I’ll make it through these because they sound great!