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.

Today’s choices are both from blogger Anne Cater. Anne blogs at Random Things Through my Letterbox and is the type of blogger I aspire to be. Please do check out her blog to see more of her great reviews.

Anne’s first choice is The Girl In The Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold ~ Published in 2008 by Tindal Street Press.


“Beloved writer Alfred Gibson’s funeral is taking place at Westminster Abbey, and Dorothea, his wife of twenty years has not been invited. Gibson’s will favours his many children and secret mistress over Dorothea – who was sent away from the family home when their youngest was still an infant. Dorothea has not left her apartment in years, but when she receives a surprise invitation to a private audience with Queen Victoria, she is shocked to find she has much in common with Her Highness. With renewed confidence Dorothea is spurred to examine her past and confront not only her family but the pretty young actress Miss Ricketts.”

Here’s what she has to say:

“I really enjoyed every page of this first novel by Gaynor Arnold, this was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and it should have won!

Dorothea, widow of Alfred Gibson narrates the story. Alfred was the most famous novelist of Victorian times and much loved by the British public. The story opens on the day of his funeral – to which Dorothea was not invited. They have lived apart for many years and Dorothea has been banished to a small London house. Whilst the rest of the country mourns Alfred’s passing, she reflects on her life with him.

Alfred is based on Charles Dickens and as far as I know, the author has stuck quite closely to his actual life and family story. He was a lively, high spirited young man who spent his life writing for his adoring public. Not only did he produce many books, but he and Dorothea had a very large family.

Gaynor Arnold writes in her acknowledgments that she has fictionalised many scenes, added some characters and removed some of them. Dorothea thinks back to when Alfred was a young man in love, a doting father and a friend to many.

After Alfred’s death Dorothea encounters many problems with her family, with money and her layabout no-good son-in-law, she also goes off to meet with another new widow – Queen Victoria. Eventually Dorothea plucks up the courage to meet with her estranged sister, the woman who stayed with Alfred until his death, and also the young actress who was Alfred’s mistress – or was she?

This is an exceptionally well written novel, I knew nothing about Charles Dickens private life and it probably works best that way. It is full of detail about Victorian life, yet never stuffy or old-fashioned. A really easy read – I loved it”.

Anne’s second book she would champion as one which hasn’t received the attention it deserves is Carry Me Home by Terri Wiltshire ~ Published in 2010 by Pan MacMillan.


“Lander, Alabama, 1904. When young Emma Scott claims she has been raped by a ‘black hobo’, a chain of events is triggered that will affect generations to come.

In modern-day Lander, Canaan Phillips has fled her abusive husband and returned to Lander and her fierce Southern Baptist grandmother, who brought her up after her mother’s suicide. Canaan’s one friend during her childhood was her grandmother’s simple brother, Luke. Now frail and elderly, Luke is still living in the corncrib shack that has been his home for thirty years.

In early-twentieth-century Lander, Emma Scott has taken an instant and violent dislike to her new child – a white-skinned boy named Luke. Abused and neglected, Luke eventually befriends Squeaky, a black boy whose family farms nearby. When tragedy strikes, Luke takes to the railroad, and as he enters manhood on the rails, we begin to discover the truth behind the events that led to his birth.

In the twentieth century, Canaan, too, is slowly coming to terms with her painful past. And, with the help of her adored Uncle Luke, she is learning to love again.

This is a heart-rending and luminous story about loyalty, hardship, love and friendship. It is also a reminder that goodness can prevail even through the cruellest hardships.”

Anne has this to say about Carry Me Home.

“There are some books that evoke the strongest of emotions in a reader, for me, this was not just a story to read, but a bit of a roller-coaster of an emotional trip too. It’s only February, but I may have already found my ‘book of the year’. It really is a wonderful, wonderful novel and I’d happily recommend it to everyone.

This really is a stunning piece of work, full of characters who will remain in my mind for quite a while yet, alongside a complex and involved plot line that flows beautifully back and forth from modern day to the past”.

You can read Anne’s full review here.

So two books that I was not familiar with but which sound intriguing. I hope you’ve discovered some new hidden literary gems lately. Do share them if you have 🙂

4 Comments Add yours

  1. These both sound wonderful!


    1. janetemson says:

      They do, and both so different 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t read either, but am going to. Thank you – I love this feature!


    1. janetemson says:

      I’m so glad you like it. I have fun and it’s great discovering all of these new books 🙂


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