Originally posted here.

The Lost Boy by Thomas Wolfe

…Light came and went and came again, the booming strokes of three o’clock beat out across the town in thronging bronze, light winds of April blew the fountain out in rainbow sheets, until the plume returned and pulsed, as Grover turned into the Square.
Thomas Wolfe, The Lost Boy
The Lost Boy, a novella by Thomas Wolfe is a surprising gem of a story. A fictionalized portrait of the author’s elder brother, who died of typhoid fever at age twelve, the novella consists of four parts each told from a different point of view. The first is a third person narrative that presents an important afternoon in Grover’s life. We see him at home, roaming around the town square, going from shop to shop. He builds up his nerve and purchases 15 cents worth of fudge from the stingy candy shop owner who is angered that Grover pays him in stamps and insists he return three one cent stamps the boy mistakenly gave him. Afriad that the store keeper will accuse him of stealing the stamps, he confesses to his father who takes dramatic action to correct the situation.
The second and third parts look at Grover from the point of view of his mother, who has always held that Grover was the smartest of her children, and his sister, who can’t quite believe that the author does not remember Grover more than he does. The interesting story here is that of the mother. She relates the tale of a train ride from St. Louis to Indiana and how proud she is that her son insists a black man return to the proper passenger car once they enter Indiana even though Jim Crow laws do not apply there. This part of the novella was excised by Wolfe’s editors in early editions, but I’d have to suport it’s inclusion in this version. Wolfe is telling it like it was, showing us that his mother’s belief that Grover was the best of her children is wrapped up in the prejudices they shared. It’s not a flattering portrait but it does help explain why she felt his loss so deeply.
It’s in the final part of the novel, a largely first person account of the author/narrator’s attempt to visit the St. Louis house his family lived in and his brother Grover died in, that the particular power of this novella and Wolfe’s writing comes to fruition. That you can’t go home again comes as no surprise to any fan of Thomas Wolfe, but no one portrays that particular sense of loss as well as he does. In The Lost Boy we not only morn the passing of the world and people of our youth, we morn a particular loss, a particular person. It’s not just the sometimes vague, sometimes tangible sense that something has passed out of our lives forever, there really is someone missing this time.
I found The Lost Boy by Thomas Wolfe compelling, touching and haunting. I’m giving it five out of five stars. I would not normally read a novella, but for the novella challenge I’ve signed up for. You can find out more about it here.

73 Responses to “Novella Reviews From Participants”

  1. C.B. James Says:

    My reivew of The Newton Letter by John Banville can be found here.


    I gave it three out of five stars.

  2. My review of The Dead by James Joyce:

    Click Here

  3. Jessica Says:

    I’m not sure I’m going to count these toward the challenge because I finished The Uncommon Reader on March 28th, and Cannery Row on March 31st, but here are links to my reviews:



  4. I guess you can count me in on the “cake under the nose” kinda reader as I jumped the gun too. You may post my verbatim if you wish, I don’t mind at all.

    Thanks for hosting this, your doing a great job.

  5. Corinne Says:

    I finished my first book for the challenge 🙂 Here is my review of Absent by Betool Khedairi and feel free to post it however you want


  6. blbooks Says:

    And you have my permission to post any of my novella challenge-related reviews.

  7. C.B. James Says:

    My review of Old Man by William Faulkner


    It’s lots of fun, really. If you’ve been put off by Faulkner in the past, this might be a good one for you to try.

  8. Corinne Says:

    I read The Woman Who Waited by Andrei Makine –
    [url=http://corinnesbookreviews.blogspot.com/2008/04/woman-who-waited.html]Here is my review[/url]

  9. C.B. James Says:

    Here is my review of Death in Venice by Thomas Mann.


    Just one more to go and I’ll have six.

  10. Corinne Says:

    My review
    of No One Writes to the Colonel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

  11. 3m Says:

    I finished the challenge!

    Here’s what I read:

    Kaddish for a Child Not Born by Kertesz
    Detective Story by Imre Kertesz
    The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
    Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
    Silk by Alessandro Baricco
    On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

  12. John Arthur Says:

    This may be off-topic. I’m trying to trace a beautiful novella I read many years ago. I only remember some of the plot:

    It’s set in France. An orphan is raised by a farmer and his wife, but the boy is treated cruelly, and is basically a slave farm-worker.

    There are excellent pen sketches of some of the snobbish local villagers and their attitude to him.

    By the end of the novella, they have turned against him (unjustly), regard him as evil, trap him in a barn and set fire to it. The last we see of him, he is on the roof-ridge of the barn, arms upraised, before the roof collapses and he falls ito the flames inside. There is a sense, though, that the boy has not died, and that his spirit lives on.

    If anyone recognises the novella, I’d love to know author/title, so that I can read it again.

  13. John Arthur Says:

    This is on-topic:

    Here’s a reading suggestion: The Earthquake in Chile (Das Erdbeben in Chile) by Heinrich von Kleist. Just brilliant.

    Re the definition of a novella: I understood that a requirement for a novella was that it had a twist in the tale – a surprise ending. Do others agree?

  14. Jessica Says:

    I’ve reviewed two books that qualify for this challenge:


    Feel free to post them here! Thanks for hosting.

  15. C.B. James Says:

    I’ve finished novella number six.

    Candide by Voltaire.

    My review is here

    I loved it.

  16. […] Novella Reviews From Participants […]

  17. Jessica Says:

    Here’s another review, this time of Death in Venice:

  18. katrina Says:

    I read my last book for this challenge and this was the first challenge I have completed! My review for Orchard on Fire is here:

  19. raidergirl3 Says:

    I finished! Here’s my list:
    Stardust by Neil Gaiman 238 p
    The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett 124 p
    This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun 190 p
    The Awakening by Kate Chopin 190 p
    Shadow Family by Miyuki Miyabe 188 p
    The Call of the Wild by Jack London 172 p

  20. joanna Says:

    I’m done! My wrap-up post is here:


    Thanks Trish, that was fun!

  21. Kim Says:

    My review of The Grass Harp by Truman Capote is here:

  22. Bridget Says:

    Here’s my review for my first novella:


    I’m really enjoying this challenge!

  23. Jessica Says:

    I’ve completed the challenge!! Here’s the link to my last review:

    Thanks for hosting such a fun challenge, Trish.

  24. Tricia Says:

    My review for The Weaver Takes a Wife by Sheri Cobb South.


  25. Just posted a review of Emily L. by Marguerite Duras.


    Thanks Trish for leaving comments on my blog!

  26. Three down, three to go!

    Knocked out a review of The Cuttlefish by Maryline Desbiolles.


  27. Just finished this review for Old Herbaceous by Reginald Arkell, novella number four! Two to go.


  28. Here is my review of Rape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates; five down, one to go!

  29. I’ve sort of let this Challenge go. I doubt I’ll finish all 6. If I don’t finish…thanks for hosting this and I hope you’ll try it again next year?
    Anyway here is my little review of War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. #33 for the year and third for this Challenge.

  30. Number Five!

    Lila Says by Chimo


    One more to go and only a few days left. Gotta turn those pages!

  31. Just wanted to add that I’ve added pics and vids to my blog.

  32. Hooray! Number six!!!

    Borges and the Eternal Orangutans by Luis Fernando Verissimo …


  33. Bridget Says:

    I’m still finishing up, with one more to go, but here is what I had to say for three novellas I read in September:


  34. Bridget Says:

    I know it’s been officially over for a while, but I finally finished my last book for this challenge in October, and posted my thoughts about the book in a blog post written this evening. If you are interested, the post is here: http://the-ravelld-sleave.blogspot.com/2008/11/october-book-report.html.

    I really enjoyed this challenge – thanks for hosting it!

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