I’d been reading a lot of novellas, and thinking about books which felt just the right size, so above is Melisande from “Melisande, or Long and Short Division“, by E. Nesbit.
- The Time Traveler’s Wife — Audrey Niffenegger. There’s some intriguingly ominous pacing in this one: the awareness of something bad that will have happened at some unspecified point. It reminded me of the countdown effect to some great termination or absence in Three Days to Never by Tim Powers, and also of how these are both in a way holding out on the effect in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, in which you’re just outright told what will happen, and then get to watch in horrified fascination as it inevitably unfolds. And the way other genres (mysteries, romances) expect the reader to know (to an extent) how the story will then, which make the thrill about the getting there. I read a few very centre-of-genre romances recently which managed to have me on the edge of my seat about how the characters would ever manage to resolve their situations.
- Upright Women Wanted — Sarah Gailey. Librarians of the Wild (again) West! The Handmaid’s Tale meets Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
- Red, White & Royal Blue — Casey McQuiston. Like reading a very explicit Meg Cabot for adults. It belongs in its own way to a very charming subcategory of romantic comedies set in a fantasy of Washington DC (All American Girl, Dave, etc).
- N or M — Agatha Christie. There was a scene in this, in which you know something bad has happened to a character (A). The following scene is of other characters playing cards, while waiting for character A. It’s incredibly tense, because it is so mundane and you’re waiting for it to be shattered, and then it… just doesn’t happen. Nothing intrudes. It’s surprisingly stressful. Not unlike parts of Picnic at Hanging Rock.
- A Civil Contract — Georgette Heyer. I liked it so much more this time around.
- Ceremonials — Katharine Coldiron. This is “a twelve-part lyric novella inspired by Florence + the Machine’s 2011 album” and one of only two Gothic-adjacent books I’ve read (in the last year, too) to draw their mythic resonance from the story of the Minotaur.
- Mistletoe Wishes: A Regency Christmas Collection (The Winter Wife, Her Christmas Earl, A Pirate for Christmas, Mistletoe and the Major, A Match Made in Mistletoe, The Christmas Stranger) — Anna Campbell. Look: people getting locked in a closet together is never not going to be funny.
- National Theatre Jane Eyre