Tag Archives: novella

Dolly by Susan Hill

Dolly by Susan Hill

Set in the dank dark landscape of the English fens, orphan Edward Cayley is sent to spend the summer with his Aunt Kestrel, whom he has never met. With him is his spoilt and spiteful cousin Leonora, also visiting for the summer. After Leonora’s birthday wish for a beautiful Indian doll is not fulfilled, the furious rage she unleashes unsettles Edward and haunts him for many years to come. Years later when Edward and Leonora are the only surviving members of the family, he returns to the the fens, and discovers the frightening consequences of Leonora’s actions, which are inescapable…

‘In the distance he heard the sound of paper rustling and the muffled crying of Dolly, buried beneath the earth.’

The problem with reading ghost stories by Susan Hill, is that her fans expect it to be as good (if not better) than The Woman in Black. While I will say this one isn’t quite as frightening, I also don’t think they’re particularly comparable. Dolly is quite a short story, only 153 pages long, but it feels a lot shorter. The majority of the book is leading up to the terrifying consequences of Leonora’s actions, which means that 80% of the story is spent on the edge of your seat waiting…

‘The grasses whisper, the wind moves among the gravestones. And somewhere just about here, by the low wall, another sound, not like the grass but like paper rustling. But there is no paper.’

What I liked the most, were her brilliant descriptions of the English fens, and the old gothic decaying house. Her writing style is such that you could read any of her books and be happy just reading her atmospheric writing, even if the story isn’t perfect. I would however highly recommend Dolly – it is a short but intriguing ghost story, great for reading in front of the fire on a winter’s evening. Just don’t expect it to be the next Woman in Black.

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen

The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen

This is a fairly short but utterly engrossing read.

The Vanishing Act is narrated by 13 year-old Minou, as she tells us the story of how her mother disappeared from the deserted island that they live on, a year previously. It is both magical and tender as we join Minou in her search for the truth.

‘Suddenly it was the loneliest night, and it was Mama’s voice, and it was the saddest song I had ever heard. It sounded as if she was singing from the depths of the frozen sea. My breath was not my own and everything felt wrong.’

Much like ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’, this story is told in a very simple childlike format, which makes you feel all the more for the young naive Minou. She and her father live on the island, and the only other two people also on the island are ‘Priest’ and ‘Boxman’ the magician, and a dog called ‘No Name’. While she is adamant that her mother is still alive and has simply run away, the others on the island are certain she has been drowned at sea. Minou decides to use her logic and compile as many facts as she can to prove her mother is still alive.

‘It is in the heart and not in the words – not even in the most beautiful ones – but in the heart, in the skeleton bird pushing against your chest, wanting to fly, that we know for certain who and what we love. That is all we have, and all there is.’ 

The characters are wonderfully written, and at the same time, both lots and very little happens in the duration of the story.  It is a real gem of a novel. Short, intriguing and ultimately heartbreaking, you will be glad you took a moment to read it. 

It is classified as adult fiction, but I would say it’s very much a crossover book. There’s nothing inappropriate for a younger reader, so I’d suggest it’s suitable for age 13+

Love From

Original Book Girl

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The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

‘It takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time’s malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it down; occasionally, it seems to go missing – until the eventual point when it really does go missing, never to return.’

I had to read The Sense of an Ending, of course. After winning the Man Booker Prize 2011, and having heard so many positive reviews, it was inevitable that I would get around to reading it.

I only needed to read the first paragraph before I knew I was going to like it. Even if I had hated the story, Julian Barnes’ writing is such that you are captivated, no matter what. At only 150 pages, and such a slim book, it’s almost a novella, and certainly felt that way after I finished it in a day.

The story centers around Tony Webster; a retired divorced man, with little left going on in his life. A letter he receives from a lawyer dredges up long forgotten memories of his school days, and Tony tries to understand and come to terms with events long past.

I felt that the main point was not so much what happens in the story itself, but memories, and how our memories are so tainted and unreliable over time, so as to confuse our own past. You are left with what the title suggests, a ‘sense’ of an ending, but not really an ending itself. The end is of course ambiguous; left up to the reader to interpret.
Tony is an entirely unreliable narrator, and you get the feeling perhaps he’s repressed his memories so much, that we are only hearing half of the story. Without giving too much away, small comments he makes throughout the novel imply various goings-on, but are never confirmed nor elaborated on.

‘How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but – mainly – to ourselves.’

I absolutely love Julian Barnes’ writing, he is a master with words, and I take great pleasure in reading his novels. When reading this book, you should start with no expectations, no prejudice, no ideals, nothing. Just take it as it is, and come to your own conclusions. Thought provoking and mysterious, I most definitely recommend giving it a read.

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman

The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman

‘I demand only one thing from each of you and it is this: the item currently in your possession which holds the most sentimental value.’

The thing about Andrew Kaufman’s books, is that they can drag you out of even the worst bad mood. The Tiny Wife is no exception. With that beautiful red and white cover, I was drawn to it immediately.

It is a short little story; at only 88 pages, it’s really a novella. Cute, funny, and just a little bit bizarre, you will flick through this book with happy smiling ease. I adored it, perhaps even more so than ‘All my friends are Superheroes’. This is the story of a robber who demands the most precious possession from each person, and with it, a little bit of their soul.

I think it’s safe to say, Andrew Kaufman writes the best kind of pick-me-up novella. You will not be disappointed after reading this book, I highly recommend it.

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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