Form – Novella

One of my favorite forms of literary fiction is the novella. Starting at approximately 19,000 words (and running as long 40,000 words) it gives the literary fiction reader a little more meat than a short story but requires less commitment than a full blown novel.

Like short stories it is not unheard of for them to be published as a collection or in literary magazines. If a novella is extremely well received it will get a cover of its own. Some publishers try to pass them off as a full length novel while others clearly state “novella” either in the title or in the description. Individually packaged novellas can range from 130 pages to 250 and generally have larger print than the standard novel.

The novella is not limited to the genre of literary fiction and is quite commonly used in science fiction and mini mysteries.

Keep an eye out for these literary fiction gems:

Ten Classic Novellas

  • The Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis)
  • Animal Farm (George Orwell)
  • The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway)
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Truman Capote)
  • Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)
  • The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka)
  • Mrs Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)
  • Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck)
  • The Touchstone (Edith Wharton)
  • Mathilda (Mary Shelley)

Five Modern Novellas

  • Legends of the Fall (Jim Harrison)
  • The Uncommon Reader (Alan Bennet)
  • Everyman (Philip Roth)
  • Shopgirl (Steve Martin)
  • Memories of My Melancholy Whores (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

For an excellent series with over thirty classic novellas (as well as a series of contemporary) check out Melville House Publishing’s The Art of the Novella.

This piece was first posted on 7/23/2009 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

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Moe’s Picks for 2005

Here are some of my picks for 2005. I tried to limit myself to ten but ended up with fifteen. Happy Reading!

An Inconvenient Wife by Megan Chance

A story about a woman living in the age of the perfect wife is expected except she isn’t so perfect with her fits and addictions. Her husband takes her to a doctor to aid her woes but he has his own agenda.

Purchase from An Inconvenient Wife
Purchase from An Inconvenient Wife


A Girl like Che Guevara by Teresa de la Caridad Doval

In Havana, Cuba during 1982 high school students were required to put in time in the Tobacco fields as part of their learning and as service to the communist regime. This is the summer for sixteen year old Lourdes Torres to experience Pinar del Rio camp. She learns her dreams of being part of the young Communist League and trying to be like her hero Che Guevara, a Marxist revolutionary and Cuban guerrilla leader, are not as easy as she thought they would be. Author Q & A with Teresa Doval.

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Purchase from A Girl like Che Guevara


The Icarus Girl: A Novel by Helen Oyeyemi

The story of an eight-year-old caught between two worlds of her mixed family. When she acts up her parents send her Nigeria for a change of pace. During her time there she develops an invisible friend named Tilly who is a comfort at first but soon develops quirks which disturb everyone.

Purchase from The Icarus Girl
Purchase from The Icarus Girl


The Ice Queen: a Novel by Alice Hoffman

The story of a small-town librarian who gets struck by lightning and lives to tell about it. With her new lease on life she begins to notice things aren’t like they use to be. If she didn’t fit in before she really doesn’t now. She begins looking for other lightening survivors for companionship and perhaps knowledge and acceptance. Thought provoking novel with a different kind of magic.

Purchase from The Ice Queen
Purchase from The Ice Queen


Matches: A Novel by Alan Kaufman

The story about the emotional toll of contemporary warfare as seen through the eyes of Nathan Falk a young American member of the Israeli Defense Force. Nathan enjoys the game of roulette that is his life: Gaza at night, cheating fellow soldiers, seducing his best friend’s wife. All have consequences. This is an intimate look at betrayal, guilt, love and survival on the battlefield.

Purchase from Matches
Purchase from Matches


Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This is the 1982 Nobel Prize winner, Columbian author’s first work of fiction in ten years. It is the story of an aged journalist who commissions a virgin prostitute for a night but finds himself in a year-long obsession that brings forth a lifetime of memories of paid loveless sex. What remains to be seen is what he is going to do with this revelation.

Purchase from Memories of My Melancholy Whores
Purchase from Memories of My Melancholy Whores


Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Re-released in time for the release of the movie. It is an epic tale following the life of Sayuri, a Japanese Geisha, from childhood when she is first purchased to her unprecedented success. A unique look into 1930s Japan when slavery was an art and one blue-eyed woman’s rise to the status of goddess.

Purchase from Memoirs of a Geisha
Purchase from Memoirs of a Geisha


Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

From the author of The Remains of the Day comes the story of a secluded English boarding school. The well-schooled students are taught from an exemplary curriculum except it includes nothing about the world off campus. Kathy has spent her life growing up here but it’s only when she and her friends leave the safe grounds they realize the full truth of what Hailsham is.

Purchase from Never Let Me Go
Purchase from Never Let Me Go


On Beauty by Zadie Smith

An English scholar with three children has a midlife crisis about the time one of his son’s finds love on the other side of the globe. A book that asks a lot of questions and then forces the characters to look for the answers but it won’t drive you to tears.

Purchase from On Beauty
Purchase from On Beauty


Runaway by Alice Munro

A collection of stories about women from all walks of life and the people they love. Like the titled story about a wife who doesn’t think she has the strength and will to leave her husband or the story of Juliet and her tarnished relationships.

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Purchase from Runaway


Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan

From the best-selling author of The Joy Luck Club and The Bonesetter’s Daughter. Eleven Americans on a voyage to Burma become separated from their designated Island Resort and end up in a jungle, lost and without their original guide. At least she isn’t with them in body. Misfortune after misfortune begets these travellers including running into a primitive tribe that has its own problems with the military.

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Purchase from Saving Fish from Drowning


Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb

Recently short listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Drawing from her own experiences from her fieldwork in Ethiopia for her Ph.D. in social anthropology Gibb has detailed a story about a young, white, Muslim woman named Lilly who falls in love with a man she works with. When their relationship is torn apart by the surrounding political and religious upheaval she searches for both understanding in the world and in herself.

Purchase from Sweetness in the Belly
Purchase from Sweetness in the Belly


The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Amir comes from a wealthy family in Kabul. As a child he spent most of his time with a servant’s son Hassan. Many days were spent telling tales and running kites. Events occur that effect the nature of the boy’s friendship from the time they meet until the country is taken over by the Taliban.

Purchase from The Kite Runner
Purchase from The Kite Runner


The Sweet Edge by Alison Pick

It’s summer. Ellen is working in an art gallery. Her boyfriend Adam is going on a canoe trip in the Arctic. Told from both of their point-of-views. Alison takes the reader through both of their perspectives on their relationship with one another and the world around them.

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Purchase from The Sweet Edge


Veronica: A Novel by Mary Gaitskill

2005 National Book Award finalist. Alison, devastated by the life of fashion-modeling moves from Paris to New York City where she befriends Veronica an eccentric proof-reader with AIDS. The unlikely duo suffer through the hardships of illness, loss and all the other emotions attached to the people we love.

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Purchase from Veronica

This piece was originally published 12/22/2005 at BellaOnline.