#NovNov – two novellas about relationships

My next two choices for Novella NovemberGift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh and Love Novel by Ivana Sajko – both focused on relationships, albeit in different ways.

Lindbergh’s reflections about her sense of self, and her role as an author, wife and mother, were inspired by a stay she had at a remote beach cottage. Each chapter is named after a shell she found on the beach, and this is used as a starting point to examine broader themes. For example, the ragged and tough oyster shell becomes symbolic of the ‘struggle’ of maintaining a long relationship, and the argonauta, a reminder of the fragility and constantly changing nature of relationships.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the moon shell, where Lindbergh considers the paradox that many women face –

Woman instinctively wants to give, yet resents giving herself in small pieces. Basically is this a conflict? Or is it an over-simplification of a many-stranded problem? I believe that what woman resents is not so much giving herself in pieces as giving herself purposelessly. What we fear is not so much that our energy may be leaking away through small outlets as that it may be going ‘down the drain’. We do not see the results of our giving as concretely as man does in his work.

Lindbergh concludes that if a woman’s function is to give, she must therefore be replenished, and goes on to describe the importance of time for solitude and rest. Hear! Hear! This is self-care, described before the concept of ‘self-care’ was labelled. She also recognises the task in achieving this –

If women were convinced that a day off or an hour of solitude was a reasonable ambition, they would find a way of attaining it.

Gift from the Sea was first published in 1955 – it’s either wonderful or alarming that it remains so relevant (alarming in that we still haven’t worked it out?!). It’s a feminist piece, although Lindbergh notes that despite many hard won prizes, ‘…the Feminists did not look that far ahead, they laid down no rules of conduct. For them it was enough to demand the privileges.’ I’ll be pondering that further.

I didn’t get on so well with Love Novel by Croation author, Ivana Sajko. It’s a fictional account of the push-and-pull of a marriage between a woman, described as a ‘passable actress’ and a man, an unemployed Dante scholar, who is also a political activist and is trying to write a novel. But his ‘trying’ doesn’t pay the rent and the woman, who has given up her safe job in a theatre to look after their baby, grows increasingly resentful. The stream of consciousness narrative alternates between their individual points of view, revealing their poisonous thoughts toward each other, their rage and the hopelessness of their situation.

On reflecting on his situation and lack of progress on his novel, the man thinks –

…but he doesn’t have money, nor a room of his own, nor her wholehearted support; he always has someone to blame.

Sajko creates two distinct voices and there are some striking sentences, however, overall it was hard reading – relentless and aggressive without any hint of redemption. It has left me thinking about the context of being trapped or jailed – in the case of this couple, they are new to capitalism, and on one level have unprecedented freedoms. And yet, they are completely trapped by their relationship.

Overall, 3/5 for Gift from the Sea and 2.5/5 for Love Novel.

5 responses

  1. I just read another novella, Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. I thought it was very well done.

    Hop on over to my blog if you’d like to join in on some quotable fun. I’m taking over for Freda until she gets well for the Friday56 meme where we publish quotes from page 56 of the book we are currently reading. Loved to have you join us. Friday56 Quotes

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