So I decided early on in the year that I’d really try to make a few reading goals to keep me going. I’m actually eight books away from meeting my yearly number goal. And I finished my first list challenge.
I’d been looking for some suggestions of books I might like to read, and this one caught my eye for multiple reasons. 9 Classic Novellas By Women You Can Read in a Day posted on Bustle. That tagline alone was enough to earn my attention.
First off- nine. A lot of lists go into the hundreds. So that was an immediate plus, because I knew it wouldn’t take all year to get this list done. Also- classic. I love being able to add more knowledge of well-renowned works to my mind. Then there was women. As a feminist, I also have been trying to continue to read more books by women. And of course, being able to read them in a day was a definite bonus.
So in light of having read them all, I’d like to rate them and say what I thought about each one and if I’d recommend reading them or not. I’d also like to mention the women who wrote them, since many of them were very incredible women who deserve recognition!
So here’s my rating starting with the ones I liked least and working up to my number one read. I used black diamonds 1-5 to rate how I liked it (there were no star characters so we’ll do this instead). 1 diamonds= disliked it, 2 diamonds= it was okay, 3 diamonds= liked it, 4 diamonds= really liked it, 5 diamonds= this book is incredible and one of my favorites.
The Plot: The short and sweet is it’s a story of the Influenza Epidemic of 1918, a young woman named Miranda is struck by the disease and becomes delirious. The story gives a good depiction of what the epidemic was like at the time, something Porter herself had suffered from.
The Writer: Katherine Anne Porter won the Pulitzer for Fiction with her short stories collection which included Pale Horse, Pale Rider. She was recognized as a very important writer of her time, and her works continue to live on, even today.
My Rating: ♦♦
My thoughts: I think the main problem for me was that I just didn’t find the story all that engaging. I don’t dispute that Porter was talented writer, but I think the plot just felt a little bit dull, at least in comparison with some of the others on this list. Still, her works are well done and I would recommend checking them out if you enjoy short fiction. If we’re taking more than just Pale Horse, Pale Rider into account, I thought some of her other stories were a little more interesting.
The Plot: A young teacher, Miss Jean Brodie, uses her influence over the girls in her care to become her ideal pupils. She hopes to inspire in them the same romanticism and make them the “creme de la creme”. However, what she doesn’t anticipate is them turning against her.
The Writer: Muriel Spark was a Scottish writer who wrote poetry, fiction, and criticism. She has been listed among the top British writers of the modern age. She won many awards in her life and posthumously. She received eight honorary doctorates in her time. There is no doubt she was an incredible woman of her own era, and she continues to be well renowned today too.
My Rating: ♦♦
My thoughts: I think the writing in this work is exceptionally lovely. In fact, I enjoyed it while I was reading immensely. I think the main thing I hate about it is just how sad the whole story is. Brodie’s influence runs deep in these young girls, and it’s tragic to see what it causes their lives to become. I think beyond my own disgust for the circumstances and characters, I really did like the other elements of this novella.
The Plot: Written in 1899, this novel portrays the struggles of a young wife and mother named Edna Pontellier vacationing with her family on the Gulf of Mexico. It is there that Edna connects with a man named Robert Lebrun and begins to fall in love, struggling with her own restrictive marriage in light of these new feelings.
The Writer: Kate Chopin is often used in women’s literature classes due to her radical writings of her time. She was a forerunner of the feminist authors of the modern era, and often drew on her own Southern upbringing as a basis of her stories, using her writing as a means of critiquing society. She was one of the leading writers of her time, and still remains quite renowned today.
My Rating: ♦♦♦
My thoughts: Chopin writes very beautifully, and I have really enjoyed some of her short stories in the past. I thought this story was very well written and thoroughly enjoyed it. I think the main problem is that as a modern reader, I cannot be quite as shocked by the content as many readers of Chopin’s times would have been. This doesn’t have the same radical value to me, and for that reason it’s harder to understand the importance of this work. Overall, I would highly recommend this novel. It’s a very easy read and does have some beautiful and interesting themes, even for women of today.
The Plot: Ethan Frome is trying his best to run his farm while his wife Zeena’s health continues to decline. Zeena’s cousin Mattie has been living with them to help care for her, and Ethan has become quite attached. However, Zeena upsets everything when she decides to send Mattie away. Ethan is troubled both by thoughts of Mattie trying to live on her own, and at the idea of losing her. He debates running away with her, but is hindered by his lack of money.
The Writer: Wharton was an incredibly successful writer and person. She was the first woman to be awarded the Pulitzer for her work. She was a Nobel nominee multiple times over. She traveled a good amount and worked hard during WWI to aid refugees and with other projects alongside her writing. Her works were quite varied and prolific, and she is well worth studying as a result.
My Rating: ♦♦♦♦
My thoughts: I really enjoyed this work. Again, like with the others I thought the writing was quite impressive. However, unlike several of the other books I also really liked the story. It’s interesting because the story is almost as depressing as the others, yet somehow Wharton managed to engage me and keep me interested in what would happen to the characters. The ending is quite twisted, but it worked very well. This novella continues to haunt me even now and I highly recommend trying it.
The Plot: Molly and Giles Davis have just opened their new guest house. They are beginning to entertain in spite of a rainstorm, when an unexpected guest turns up to let them know there is a killer on the loose, who may in fact be heading for their home next. The mystery and suspense continue as the group tries to figure out who the killer might be, and who he or she wants to kill next.
The Writer: Agatha Christie has become a famous name, partly because of this well-known story. It was converted into a play known as The Mousetrap, which has become the longest running play in history. She was an English crime novelist and playwright. She has been listed as one of the best-selling novelists of all time, and most translated author as well. She has left a lasting legacy, especially in the crime novel genre.
My Rating: ♦♦♦♦
My thoughts: Unlike many of the other works I’ve reviewed, this isn’t one that stands out to me in terms of “great writing” at least stylistically. Chopin’s work is so evocative in the language and descriptions, but Christie triumphs more for me in terms of her plot. A good old-fashioned murder mystery can be extremely entertaining, especially if its well done like Christie’s is. I really enjoyed Three Blind Mice and also devoured the other stories in the collection. Christie is certainly an author I’d like to explore more of, as I think her works are definitely ones I enjoy reading, even if they don’t challenge my thinking quite as much.
The Plot: The story begins with Cécile, a young woman on vacation on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea with her father and his mistress Elsa. She is seventeen years old and has found love for the first time. However, things are never easy, and a woman named Anne Larsen arrives just in time to wreak havoc on her peaceful vacation.
The Writer: Sagan was a French playwright, novelist, and screenwriter. She was only eighteen when she published this novel, and yet it became her most well-known work. At her death, President Chirac commented on the loss of an incredible writer of their country.
My Rating: ♦♦♦♦
My thoughts: I need to try reading this novel in French, partly because I thought the writing was incredible, but I cannot be sure how accurate the translation I was reading was. The story is certainly sad, as many of the ones on this list are, but it was interesting and the characters all amused me. I read several reviews from people who thought this was simply a spoiled teenager’s view of the world, but maybe as a young adult myself I can recognize some of the ways Cécile was feeling in trying to figure out what she wanted from life. I certainly enjoyed it, and I’ll have to test my French skills at some point!
The Plot: The story is set in New York during the Harlem Renaissance. It tells the story of two black women who are able to “pass” for white and the very different lives they live. Irene Redfield has married a black physician and lives a privileged life in Harlem. Clare Kendry, her childhood friend, has married a racist white man who has no knowledge of her racial identity. Clare is envious of Irene’s ability to go between the two races and begins to throw herself into social situations where she can mix as well. Irene worries about what will happen if Clare’s husband discovers the truth and the danger it might bring to her friend. She debates how to handle the situation.
The Writer: Nella Larsen only published two novels and a few short stories, but she nonetheless stands out as a prominent female writer in the Harlem Renaissance. Her works helped to contribute to conversations about sexual and racial identity at the time and as a result she has continued to be studied even today. She worked as a nurse and librarian, initially very active in the Harlem circles with other artists, though she eventually withdrew and gave up her literary career.
My Rating: ♦♦♦♦
My thoughts: I really enjoyed this work. I thought it was a really interesting exploration on topics of identity, especially racial, and that it painted a good picture of the Harlem Renaissance. I found both Irene and Clare’s stories interesting, and thought Larsen did a good job of making both sympathetic in their own ways. I highly recommend reading this novella. I found it very eye opening, and am hoping I can find other works that can likewise help me have a better understanding of issues I might not normally think to study.
The Plot: Latimer has had strange visions of a pale woman, which he believes is a vision of the future. Two of his earlier visions have both come true, leading him to believe that this other one will as well. He becomes fascinated with his brother’s wife Bertha, who he believes is the woman from his visions. His unreliable narration continues to weave a tale of horror and mystery.
The Writer: George Eliot is often mistaken for a man thanks to the masculine pen name, one she selected in order to be taken seriously. Nonetheless, Mary Ann Evans was one of the leading writers of the Victorian era, and in spite of her horror novella, she is usually known for her realistic fiction. She worked as an editor for a while, something which was quite unusual for a woman of her day. Her great novel Middlemarch has been described as one of the best novels in the English language. She was praised for her depictions of rural society and well-championed by other writers after her time, notably Virginia Woolf.
My Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦
My thoughts: I believe this was the most exciting novella of the list for me. I devoured it in one sitting and found the plot utterly fascinating. My only worry is that now I’ll never be able to read Eliot’s other works without this tainting my view of them. It is, as I understand, a really unique work for her. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and it is one of my highest recommendations on the list.
The Plot: Victor Frankenstein becomes fascinated with the idea of reanimating the dead while studying science and anatomy. He ends up being successful in his experiments, bringing to life a monstrous creature who he allows to escape by accident. He retreats into the mountains, believing that he will never see his creation again. However, to his surprise the creature seeks him out, interested in building a relationship with the one who made him, seeking answers for the wrongs that have been done to him.
The Writer: Mary Shelley is an English novelist and writer, who is best known for this work in particular, even though she wrote many others. She was the daughter of the famous mother of feminism, Mary Wollstonecraft, and the philosopher William Godwin. Many of her works have become important in studies of literature, and she remains renowned for her writing, especially for Frankenstein which she wrote when she was eighteen.
My Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦
My thoughts: This was the only novel on the challenge that I had read before starting it. It has been a favorite of mine since I read it my senior year of high school. The novel is brilliantly written, and there is just so much depth to the themes and questions asked within the pages. I have read it twice now, and likely will continue to study it as I grow older. I will never be able to forget the emotions this novel has evoked, or put aside the ways it has changed me. I highly recommend this book if you haven’t yet read it.
I hope some of you might consider a book or two from this list that caught your eye, or even try to read all of them. I think they represent a variety of perspectives and genres, making them a nice and easy collection to read. Let me know if you have any thoughts!
*All information has been taken from Goodreads.com and Wikipedia.com, the same with the pictures. *