Book reviews: Novellas by Leskov, Eliot, and Gallico

Novellas in November 2022

As I am working on my 4th list of books for The Classic Club, I decided to focus on classics for the Novellas in November event, not just this week, but for the whole month.

This week, I finished three, in this order:

The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk


The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, by Nikolai Leskov
Translated by
Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
So not the edition shown on this book cover
Originally published in Russian in 1865
Literary fiction / Novella
44 pages

Read for The 1929 Club

Leskov is an amazing narrator.
I had only read On the Edge of the World by him, and this novella made me realize more how talented he is in his descriptions of people.

The story begins thus,

“In our parts such characters sometimes turn up that, however many years ago you met them, you can never recall them without an inner trembling.”

And the reason of this “inner trembling” is Katerina Lvovna Izmailova, aka The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, possibly the first serial killer in Russian literature.

Bored after she was married to Zinovy, a widower twice her age, Katerina gets interested in the steward Sergei. Sergei decides to add her to his collection of women he has seduced, but he has no clue what he’s getting into with the fierce Katerina…

I can’t reveal much more without spoiling it all.
I was amazed how Leskov managed to portray this woman and her milieu in so few pages. We do have lots of details on the living conditions of small Russian merchants and their household at the time.

And obviously, with the reference to Shakespeare’s work, it is a terrifying tale on the effects of passion – and it also includes hallucinations. Though her acts are motivated by greed for love, and not greed for power.
Definitely not a woman and a novella you can easily forget! With a terrible and powerful ending as well!
I read it in the edition of The Enchanted Wanderer, and I really want to read the 16 other novellas included in the volume
Click to continue reading


Book review: The Waiting Years

 The Waiting Years   Chemin de femmes  

Chemin de femmes
by Fumiko Enchi
First published as 女坂 in 1957, Translated from the Japanese into French
Anne Bayard-Sakai and Cécile Sakai
Gallimard, NFR, 1999
228 pages
The Waiting Years
translated by John Bester – Kodansha, 2002
203 pages
Historical fiction 


I didn’t find the book quickly enough in English, so I read it in its French translation. But I gave the information above to encourage you to read it in English if you can find it, as it’s really excellent.

The book is set at the end of the 19th century, near the end of the Meiji era, when feudal traditions were still alive, like here with Tomo, a high official’s wife, who serves him to the end, for the sake of the family unit. Submission to the husband was then the only way for women (as highlighted by the title in the French edition).

Click to continue reading

Book review: Katherine’s Wish

Katherine's Wish

Katherine’s Wish,
by Linda Lappin
Wordcraft of Oregon
Officially released in 2008,
now re-released in 2021
250 pages
Historical fiction/fictional biography

Buy It Here:
Our Bookshop
Also Available From The Publisher / On Amazon

You can also request your copy before the end of December, and read and review it in your own time!

I read some short stories by Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) forty years ago or more, and unfortunately have no real memory of them.
But I had no idea of her life. And what a life and a character!
So I eagerly read Katherine’s Wish, a historical novel focusing on the last five years of her life, when she traveled back and forth between England, France, Italy, and Switzerland, trying to find the best setting and cure for her tuberculosis.

Click to continue reading