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 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 suggestion is from Emma who blogs at Mrs Red’s Reviews. Her choice is The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, published by Bloomsbury.



From the moment Alma Whittaker steps into the world, everything about life intrigues her. Instilled with an unquenchable sense of wonder by her father, a botanical explorer and the richest man in the New World, Alma is raised in a house of luxury and curiosity. It is not long before she becomes a gifted botanist in her own right. But as she flourishes and her research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, the man she comes to love draws her in the opposite direction – into the realm of the spiritual, the divine and the magical. The Signature of All Things soars across the globe of the nineteenth century, from London and Peru, to Philadelphia, Tahiti and beyond. Peopled with extraordinary characters along the way, most of all it has an unforgettable heroine in Alma Whittaker.”

See more at on the Bloomsbury website.

Here’s what Emma had to say about it.

“I wouldn’t call it a romance novel, but an exploration of a woman’s life….The writing flows well and I loved the tone of the book.”

You can read Emma’s full review and see the answers Elizabeth Gilbert gave to Emma when she took part in a web chat on Emma’s blog.

If that’s not enough to tempt you The Signature of All Things was longlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize and shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize and has 185 five star reviews on Amazon.

The second book to be recommended this week is The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale, published by Bloomsbury. The Wicked Boy was recommended by Caryl who blogs at Mrs Blogg: The Average Reader.


“Early in the morning of Monday 8 July 1895, thirteen-year-old Robert Coombes and his twelve-year-old brother Nattie set out from their small, yellow-brick terraced house in East London to watch a cricket match at Lord’s. Their father had gone to sea the previous Friday, the boys told their neighbours, and their mother was visiting her family in Liverpool. Over the next ten days Robert and Nattie spent extravagantly, pawning their parents’ valuables to fund trips to the theatre and the seaside. But as the sun beat down on the Coombes house, a strange smell began to emanate from the building.When the police were finally called to investigate, the discovery they made sent the press into a frenzy of horror and alarm, and Robert and Nattie were swept up in a criminal trial that echoed the outrageous plots of the ‘penny dreadful’ novels that Robert loved to read. In The Wicked Boy, Kate Summerscale has uncovered a fascinating true story of murder and morality – it is not just a meticulous examination of a shocking Victorian case, but also a compelling account of its aftermath, and of man’s capacity to overcome the past.”

See more at on the Bloomsbury website.

This is what Caryl had to say about it.

“I’m not sure which aspect of the research all woven into a fascinating narrative, appealed to me the most, but it just about covered a number of my interests in one fell swoop. We have history, social history, Victorian crime and punishment, emigration, family history, maritime history, Gallipoli during the First World War and later in France and Flanders…”

You can read Caryl’s full review on her blog.

So there we have this week’s suggestions. I hope you found something new and appealing to add to the reading list. Do let me know your thoughts on the choices and don’t forget you can nominate your own quiet book too.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. I loved The Signature of All Things, a rare depiction of a woman finding her way in science.


    1. janetemson says:

      I’ve not read it but I think I need to add it to the TBR. Glad to hear you enjoyed it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really do love this series, it was such a great idea to start this. I’m going to add The Signature of All Things to my buy list today – I had heard of it before but avoided it because I couldn’t get on with Eat,Pray, Love at all, but reading about this newer book in your post has made me think I would really enjoy it. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.


    1. janetemson says:

      I’m so glad to hear you are enjoying the series, so am I. Both books sound great and I’ve not read either. Do let me know what you make of The Signature of All Things. I hope you enjoy it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I really loved The Wicked Boy and although The Signature of All Things made it to my radar, I sadly haven’t read it yet – your post has convinced me I must!


    1. janetemson says:

      I’m glad to hear you loved The Wicked Boy. I loved The Suspicions of Mr Whicher so I think I’m going to have to get this one. I hope you enjoy The Signature of All Things 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. ifucanrememberituwerentthere says:

    Not sure how I missed The Wicked Boy! Sounds great – yet another to add to the growing TBR pile. Thanks. My recommendation for Under the Radar is ‘The Kindness’ by Polly Samson. My Goodreads review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1234964859 It’s published by Bloomsbury (2015) https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23573373-the-kindness


    1. janetemson says:

      I hope you enjoy The Wicked Boy when you get to read it. Thanks for the suggestion, it’s not one I’m familiar with so I’ve made a note to look into it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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