This is a wholehearted recommendation. I enjoy novellas, they are quick to read compared to a novel, but have the scope to be more involving than a short story. Having finished a novella, I often think about the characters for a long time, mulling over the story and careful wordcraft of the author. One excellent example is Foster by Wicklow author, Claire Keegan.
Point of view
This short book packs real emotional impact and is delicately wrought. Set in rural Wexford, Ireland, in 1981, the story plays out over the school summer holidays when the 9-year-old child of a poor family is cared for by a distantly related child-less couple. Keegan has chosen to write the story in the continuous present tense and in a first-person omniscient narrative voice. This choice gives access to the child’s perspective and inner world, but without full access to the thoughts and feelings of all the characters.
The story is about love and loss within the family setting, and how tenderness and kindness can restore hope in the neglected. In literary criticism it would be classified as a bildungsroman novella, as it is a coming-of-age story and focusses on the psychological and moral growth of a child.
There are many beautiful lines in the story, including early on ‘I was a new creature who had climbed out of the dark, who had found her own voice, her own way.’
And wonderful description like ‘The light was warm and honey-coloured and it spilled itself like syrup over everything.’
The novella has been a great success since its publication in 2009, when it won the Davy Byrnes Short Story Award.
In a 2010 interview Keegan said, ‘It’s essentially about trusting in the reader’s intelligence rather than labouring a point. To work on the level of suggestion is what I aim for in all my writing.’
In my opinion she has achieved this most admirably and this highly evocative and heart-warming story is best read slowly as there is much left unsaid giving a depth best appreciated with mulling and consideration.
If you prefer to watch the story, it is a film The Quiet Girl, directed by Colm Bairéad, shot in 2020. It was the first-ever film in the Irish language to be short listed for an Oscar and became the highest-grossing Irish-language film.