Under the Reader’s Radar – Celebrating the quiet novel

There are thousands upon thousands of books published each year. Only a small percentage of those make it to the best-seller list. That doesn’t mean that the rest aren’t worthy of reading. It may be that they are written by self-published authors who don’t have the marketing knowledge or a small independent publisher who doesn’t have the marketing budget to spread the word. Even the larger publishing houses have a limited marketing and publicity budget so can’t promote all the novels they publish to an equal degree.

I’m part of a wonderful online community called Book Connectors where bloggers, reviewers and authors can discuss all things book related. During one of the threads there was mention of ‘quiet’ books, the ones that miss out on the big publicity push. It was agreed that it was such a shame that certain books weren’t as widely read, as the reading public were missing out on hidden gems. So that sparked a germ of an idea and I decided to do a series of posts to highlight titles that myself and other bloggers and authors feel may have gone under the reader’s radar. (That’s was the working title for this series of posts and as inspiration hasn’t struck me with anything better, its the one I’m going with for now).

So in each post I’ll aim to highlight a couple of titles that may have been missed from your reading awareness. Hopefully you’ll discover a treat or two. And please do let me know if you have any books you’d like to suggest.

This week’s first title is recommended by Catherine Hokin, author of Blood and Roses. She chose If No One Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor, published by Bloomsbury.


”This novel owes as much to poetry as it does to prose. Its opening, an invocation of the life of the city, is strongly reminiscent of Auden’s Night Mail in its hypnotic portrait of industrialised society… An assured debut’ Erica Wagner, The Times.

On a street in a town in the North of England, ordinary people are going through the motions of their everyday existence – street cricket, barbecues, painting windows… A young man is in love with a neighbour who does not even know his name. An old couple make their way up to the nearby bus stop. But then a terrible event shatters the quiet of the early summer evening. That this remarkable and horrific event is only poignant to those who saw it, not even meriting a mention on the local news, means that those who witness it will be altered for ever.

Jon McGregor’s first novel brilliantly evokes the histories and lives of the people in the street to build up an unforgettable human panorama.

‘Breathtakingly original, humane and moving, IF NOBODY SPEAKS OF REMARKABLE THINGS is an astonishing debut. ‘The work of a burning new talent … Jon MacGregor writes like a lyrical angel’ Daily Mail ‘”

See more on the Bloomsbury website.

This is what she had to say about it,

“It is simply the most poetic book I have ever read. The opening is lyrical in the way it evokes life in a Northern city and the structure moves between two characters in a way that is challenging and thought-provoking – you get to care deeply about people you only know in a very light touch way which is fascinating. It is about memories – almost heartbreakingly – and ordinary people and it is a book you hear almost more than you read. Wonderful.”

Blood and Roses, the story of Margaret of Anjou and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses 
“an absorbing, accomplished tale” Antonia Senior, The Times
You can find out more about Catherine and her novel Blood and Roses on her website.
The next book to be suggested is Life Class by Gilli Allan, published by Accent Press, and was suggested by blogger Anne Williams, who blogs at Being Anne.

“Four people hide secrets from the world and themselves. Dory is disillusioned by men and relationships, having seen the damage sex can do.  Fran deals with her mid-life crisis by pursuing an online flirtation which turns threatening. Stefan feels he is a failure and searches for self-validation through his art. Dominic is a lost boy, heading for self-destruction. 

They meet regularly at a life-drawing class, led by sculptor Stefan. They all want a life different from the one they have, but all have made mistakes they know they cannot escape. They must uncover the past – and the truths that come with it – before they can make sense of the present and navigate a new path into the future.”

Anne said
“(Life Class is) a satisfying feel-good book I really wanted to read, that spoke to me directly and that I thoroughly enjoyed…It’s a story about people and their relationships, character driven fiction at its best, the grown up love story I’d hoped for.”
You can read Anne’s review in full here.
So there we have it, two more books other readers thought deserved more attention from the book loving world. I admit I’ve not read either but both sound great.
I do hope you find this series of posts helpful. Let me know if you have any suggestions of readable treats more people should know about, or if you read any of the suggestions throughout the series of posts.

15 Comments Add yours

  1. So pleased to see the Jon McGregor featured here, Janet. Many years ago I wrote the reading guide for the Bloomsbury website. It’s a wonderful book.


    1. Annecdotist says:

      Oh, How wonderful, Susan, I loved that novel and, living near Nottingham, kept imagining a street where it might be set.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s such an evocative book, and all the more so if you know the area I’m sure, Anne


      2. janetemson says:

        Glad to hear you loved it too Anne 🙂


    2. janetemson says:

      What a wonderful job 🙂 I admit I had heard of his book but for some reason I’d never read it. I think I will have to now 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was my first freelance gig, and very enjoyable, too. I hope you like the book as much as I did.


  2. gilliallan says:

    I am thrilled and delighted you included Life Class in your “Under the Reader’s Radar” feature, Janet. As you are obviously aware, it is so hard to raise a books profile and attract notice. I was delighted with Anne’s generous review. Thank you for high-lighting it. Gillix

    Liked by 2 people

    1. janetemson says:

      My pleasure, it was all down to Anne, I’m more than happy to share 🙂


  3. I am a confirmed fan of Mr McGregor- he’s a real bookseller’s favourite and regularly features in recommends bays throughout the land as we all want everyone to read him! Even The Dogs is my personal favourite as I love the ‘reader participation’ aspect of it as well as its sensitive handling of the issue of homelessness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      Well I’ll have to check that one out too 🙂


  4. Sarah says:

    I totally love that McGregor book. I found it really moving, touching, written in a very understated, no fuss sort of way. Great to see it featured. I’ve suggested it to so many people and none have been disappointed.


    1. janetemson says:

      It seems to be a much loved book. I really do need to read it 🙂


      1. Sarah says:

        Definitely worth it and so short.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. If Nobody Speaks is one of my all time favourite books Janet, so glad to see it featured!


    1. janetemson says:

      It sounds like it is much loved. It certainly appears to have been missed by the majority of readers, including me. At least I can make sure I read it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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