A bit of a departure  here on Lizzy’s Literary Life (and probably more suited to a Sunday Salon post – but I can’t wait till next Sunday.  So for one week only it’s Sunday Salon on a Tuesday!) My question is precipitated by the novellas I chose for the November Novella challenge.  I’m not going to name them because I want your opinions to be freed of any prejudicial clues.  I was going to McLuhan them for you (i.e give you the text of page 69) but one of them is not long enough.  So let’s pick a number of significance to me – 25 – because my silver wedding anniversary is rapidly approaching! (How did I get so old, so quickly?) 

OK, so it’s Sunday Salon on a Tuesday and we’re “McLuhaning” about 200 words from page 25 or thereabouts.  Names have been changed to protect the innocent!

Novella One:

“I swear to you on the life of our daughter Suzanne, that I will love you forever.  But as for you, do not torture me.  Must you invent reasons to panic, when my heart is so tranquil?”

They prolonged their conversation into the night and the darkness, going to bed very late.

But just as they had fallen asleep, Clinton was awakened by the noisy arrival of carriage and horses.  He got up and saw one of his old couriers bringing him a letter from the government.  It was an order to leave for X in twenty-four hours.  There he was to be given an important mission, which called for a man of his talents.

Poor Eunice!  You sleep on as they take away your lover!

“So that is the explanation of this terrible misery”, she cried.  “My dreadful fate is coming to pass.  Oh Clinton, you are abandoning me, and you are once again to be faced with the folly of men and the chances of fortune. Goodbye, my happiness, goodbye, happy days, so few and yet so infinitely cruel; and now so priceless.”

She was pale and weakened, and her voice faded.  Clinton himself was hardly any calmer, but he had to go.

Pertinent facts: 207 words, 16 sentences, words per sentence 12.8, number of polysyllabic words 14, passive sentences 18%, Fleisch Reading Ease 78.6, Fleisch-Kincaid Grade Level 5.2.  SMOG Index 13.5, which equates to the reading standard expected of an eleven year old.

Novella two

Robert’s great-grandmother was called “the caterpillar” in the village.  She always had a thin plait hanging down her back.  She couldn’t bear a comb.  Her husband died young without falling ill.

After the burial the caterpillar went looking for her husband.  She went to the inn.  She looked each man in the face. “It’s not you,” she said from one table to the next.  The landlord went up to her and  said, “But your husband is dead.”  She held her thin plait in her hand.   She wept and ran out into the street.

Every day the caterpillar went looking for her husband.    She went into every house and asked if he had been there.

One winter’s day, when the fog was driving white hoops across the village, the caterpillar went out into the fields.  She was wearing a summer dress and no stockings.  Only her hands were dressed for snow.  She was wearing thick woollen gloves.  She walked through the bare thickets.  It was late afternoon.  The forester saw her.  He sent her back to the village.

The next day the forester came into the village. The caterpillar had lain down on a blackthorn bush.  She had frozen to death. He brought her into the village across his shoulder.  She was as stiff as a board

Pertinent facts: 219 words, 26 sentences, words per sentence 8.3, number of polysyllabic words 10, passive sentences 3%, Fleisch Reading Ease 87.1, Fleisch-Kincaid Grade Level 3.1.  SMOG Index 11.7 which equates to the reading standard expected of a seven year-old.


For comparison the reading age required for UK newspaper editorials: The Sun: under 14 / The Daily Express: under 16 / The Telegraph and The Guardian: over 17


So, what are your thoughts?  Would you consider either of the two extracts as literary?  Do the reading age requirements accurately reflect the content of the pieces? What else do these extracts tell you?  Can you identify the authors?  They’re both famous – that’s all I’m telling you.  Take a guess if you like.  If you know, however, don’t tell.  It’ll spoil the game.  And don’t forget to come back next Sunday (to the real Sunday Salon), when I’ll reveal all  – including no holds barred reviews of both novellas.