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 Worthless Men by Andrew Cowan, published by Sceptre and was suggested by Cleo at Cleopatra Loves Books.


“It’s market day in an English city two years into the Great War. The farmers are coming in from the country, the cattle are being driven through the streets and that evening a trainload of wounded soldiers is due to arrive.
At the local mansion, its new hospital tents to the ready, waits Montague Beckwith, himself a psychological casualty of the war. In the town’s poorest quarter, Winnie Barley prays that Walter, her missing son, will be on the train (but that her violent husband is not). In the pharmacy, Gertie Dobson dreams of romance while her father keeps unsuitable men at bay. And everywhere is Walter, a ghostly presence who watches as the girl he loved from a distance is drawn into Montague’s orbit.

Weaving together multiple viewpoints, Andrew Cowan creates a panoramic, extraordinarily vivid portrait of a place as individual as it is archetypal. Here is a community where the war permeates high and low; where the factory now produces barbed wire, the women are doing the men’s jobs, and the young men are no longer so eager to answer the King’s call. And here is the tragic story of a casual betrayal, and a boy who proved that those at the bottom of the heap – the worthless ones – could be the most valiant of them all.”

Here’s what she had to say:

“I loved the style of this book; the gradual building up of a picture was immensely satisfying with every page of this 260 page book adding detail to this well-known historical period.”

You can read Cleo’s full review here.

The second book put forward today is Girl at War by Sara Novic, published by Little Brown and was suggested by author Sarah Jasmon.


“Growing up in Zagreb in the summer of 1991, 10-year-old Ana Juric is a carefree tomboy; she runs the streets with her best friend, Luka, helps take care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. But when civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, football games and school lessons are supplanted by sniper fire and air raid drills.

The brutal ethnic cleansing of Croats and Bosnians tragically changes Ana’s life, and she is lost to a world of genocide and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival. Ten years later she returns to Croatia, a young woman struggling to belong to either country, forced to confront the trauma of her past and rediscover the place that was once her home.

Girl At War is a haunting, compelling debut from a brilliant young writer, rooted in historical fact and personal experience. Sara has lived in the States and Croatia, and her novel bears witness to the haunting stories of her family and friends who lived through the height of the conflict, and reflects her own attempts to come to terms with her relationship to Croatia and its history. It is an extraordinary achievement for a novelist of any age, let alone age 26.”

Here’s what Sarah had to say:

“Nović creates a beautiful portrait of a family, and of a whole way of life, shattered by violence and the irrationality of partisan fervour….this is primarily a story of growth and rebuilding, and we are not led too far into the darkness. I enjoyed every moment”

Girl at War was longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016.

You can read the full review on Sarah’s website. Sarah’s novel, The Summer of Secrets was published by Black Swan on 13 August 2015. You can read a Q&A with Sarah here.

So two more books that deserve to be more widely read. I hope you like this week’s selection. Do let me know if you’ve read either of them, and if you have any suggestions for a quiet book.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. I’m thrilled you featured Worthless Men – a book that has haunted me ever since I read it- thank you


    1. janetemson says:

      Thank you for suggesting it. It isn’t a book I’m familiar with so I’m pleased to find out about new books 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. MarinaSofia says:

    I was rather keen on Girl at War, so glad to see it on the list. It’s not flashy, but powerful and convincing, a picture of the consequences of the Yugoslav war and how its survivors are viewed in other parts of the world.


    1. janetemson says:

      I’ve not read it but as you say it does sound like a powerful and thought-provoking read. Glad to hear you enjoyed it 🙂


  3. Jackie says:

    I love the whole concept of shining a light on the ‘quiet novel.’ I enjoyed the Ben McPherson book and shall be ordering both of these novels. Thank you!


    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks very much. I do hope you enjoy the books and do let me know if you have a quiet book you’d recommend 🙂


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