About the story
Angela narrates her life from the very beginning- she claims to remember being in the shell – to her formative weeks or months in the battery and to the subsequent years in the 'convent'. In the battery she and her companions learn religion which is about MaH the Great Mother Hen who laid the universe. They learn about chook etiquette too. Sparrows that fly in tell them a bit about the outside world. Needless to say it is a confined sort of life and Angela feels restless and restricted.
By contrast the open-air backyard chook run , or 'convent' feels like Paradise and Angela appreciates the spaciousness and the variety of new food the chooks are given. She and her companions and the older hens already in the convent develop their own interests. Poulette, the novice mistress wants to tunnel to Ligorno. Pertilote who had had a wider wordly experience shares some of her reminiscence with Angela. Mavis and Evangelina, two of her fellow novices, discover mind altering substances and the irritating and lowly Chickweed fights for acceptance and wants to move up the pecking order.
Even here Angela feels limited, she wants to fly like the birds she sees around her. But surprising changes are in store for her and her life develops in ways she could not have imagined in the far off battery days.
Q.What genre is this novella?
A. Chook Lit
“What box would I put this book in?” is a question publishers and agents ask. It is a question self publishers don't have to answer or even raise. But I have tried to identify a genre or a similar subcategory. I thought of Saint-Exupery's 'The Little Prince' and Paul Gallico's 'Jennie'. Jennie is a cat and Gallico has other cat novels to his name.
Richard Bach's 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull' (1970) provides some comparison with 'Angela' . Jonathan strives to excel in flying and has a single-minded dedication to this self imposed task. The book has been described as 'a homily about self-perfection'. Other seagulls are named in the story but it is striking in this day and age that not a single female is given a name. Angela wants to fly too- any sort of flying to get be able to travel further is all she wants.. By the circumstances of her life her close companions are female until a particular male enters the story. Later others appear.
Chick-lit like Chick-flic is a label put on works of fiction or film that appeal to young women. Following that line I thought I would call 'Angela' Chook-lit. I found the term is already in use with two meanings: rural romance and literature for older women.
'Angela' is Chook lit, firstly, because it is about chooks, and secondly because it will appeal more to older than younger readers. It could also sneak into the 'rural romance' box but that isn't a where I would have thought to classify it.
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