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 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 first choice is by Anne Williams who blogs at Being Anne. She recommends Not Forgetting the Whale by John Ironmonger, published by W&N.


“If you were looking for the perfect escape, where would you go? This is the heartwarming story of one man who has given up hope and the village that gives it back to him.

When a young man washes up, naked, on the sands of St Piran in Cornwall, he is quickly rescued by the villagers. From the retired village doctor and the beachcomber, to the priest’s flirtatious wife and the romantic novelist, they take this lost soul into their midst. But what the villagers don’t know is that Joe Haak is a city analyst who has fled London, fearing he may – inadvertently – have caused a global financial collapse.

But is the end of the world really nigh? And what of the whale that lurks in the bay? Intimate, funny and heart-warming, Not Forgetting the Whale is a story about community, the best and worst in our nature, and the search for a place to call home.”

Here’s what she has to say about it.

this is one of those rare books that I’ll be thrusting into the hands of friends and urging them to read it, it’s so thoroughly perfectI found it a fascinating exploration of how a very specific community of people react to a global event, and how people’s resilience and capacity for love will always surprise you

You can read Anne’s full review here.

Not Forgetting the Whale has nearly 60 reviews, none less than three stars and has 40 five star reviews.

The next suggestion is from Bettina at Trip Fiction. Her recommended read is The Bamboo Stalk by Saud Alsanousi and translated by Jonathan Wright, published by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing.


“Josephine escapes poverty by coming to Kuwait from the Philippines to work as a maid, where she meets Rashid, an idealistic only son with literary aspirations. Josephine, with all the wide-eyed naivety of youth, believes she has found true love. But when she becomes pregnant, and with the rumble of war growing ever louder, Rashid bows to family and social pressure, and sends her back home with her baby son, José.

Brought up struggling with his dual identity, José clings to the hope of returning to his father’s country when he is eighteen. He is ill-prepared to plunge headfirst into a world where the fear of tyrants and dictators is nothing compared to the fear of ‘what will people say’. And with a Filipino face, a Kuwaiti passport, an Arab surname and a Christian first name, will his father’s country welcome him?

The Bamboo Stalk takes an unflinching look at the lives of foreign workers in Arab countries and confronts the universal problems of identity, race and religion.” (synopsis and book cover image from Amazon)

Here’s what Bettina had to say.

“This is an incredible story of migration and rootlessness and what it means “to belong”. It is epic in its breadth and story….Alsanousi has a real ability to get into thinking of his chosen countries, the Philippines just comes alive…In Kuwait he captures the oppressive nature of society…”

You can read the full review on the Trip Fiction website.

You might also like to know that The Bamboo Stalk has only 5 star reviews on Amazon.


So there you have it, two more books that I have yet to read but both of which sound fascinating. I hope you’ve discovered a new read, and do let me know if you’ve any books you’d like to share.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. tripfiction says:

    Thank you so much. I have heard so much about Not Forgetting the Whale, I must put that on my TBR pile! This is such a great series of posts, there are indeed so many books that are worthy of a larger readership….!


    1. janetemson says:

      There definitely are. Thanks again for the great suggestion 🙂


  2. vicky blake says:

    What a fantastic supportive idea. I haven’t heard of either of them but then that is the whole point! I look forward to reading them.


    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks very much. I’m discovering a lot of books that have passed me by this way. Do let me know what you think of them when you get to read them. And let me know if you have any suggestions yourself 🙂


  3. Some more great reads Janet!


    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks Cathy. It’s certainly making the wishlist bigger 🙂


  4. Really loving this idea. I just bumble along reading books that capture my interest without any real consideration for the spurious reasons that they have ended up in my hands (or gargantuan to be read pile). It had not even crossed my mind that marketing, or lack of, would of course influence how well received or known a book or author becomes- perhaps ,as you suggest, we can all help redress this imbalance. It is fitting as wanting to share my bookish experiences and discover newer ones from a wider pool is why I have recently started blogging. I am currently on a Sarah Moss mission, as in wanting to share my love for her much overlooked writing. She writes such thoughtful stories, full of intelligence and sharpened prose. I’m sure more people would love her, if they knew about her. Definitely a ‘quiet novel’ type of writer thus far and this deserves to change.


    1. janetemson says:

      Thank you so much. I agree with you, most of what I read, or at least used to read before I started blogging, stems from books I’ve seen advertised, or stumbled across. Since blogging I’ve read and loved books I probably would never have read before.

      I’ve not read any Sarah Moss before, I’ll definitely have to look her up. And if you want to include one of her books on another Under the Reader’s Radar, let me know 🙂


      1. It’s funny, isn’t it Janet, how your bookish landscape changes, once you start interacting on social media with other bookworms. I now have an even bigger to be read pile and this is thanks to a much wider and more open selection pool, courtesy of lovely inspiration from fellow readers. I feel really inspired by this strand of thinking as it does tend to be newer books that get the airtime. Thankfully new can mean new to you- especially if old books start getting shared. Would love to share a Sarah Moss review with you and the wider book community. Just let me know how you would like me to do it (I am still quite new to blogging and don’t know all the etiquette). Kelly


      2. janetemson says:

        I’m so glad you’ve found this thought-provoking. And I totally agree, new can mean new to you, there are so many great books to discover. If you’d like to follow me on Twitter @JanetEmson, then we can DM email addresses about featuring the titles you’d like to highlight 🙂 Thanks for wanting to be involved.

        Liked by 1 person

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