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.

The first suggestion this week comes from blogger Christina Philippou. Christina has picked Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey, published by Bloomsbury.


“‘An astonishing memoir’ Sonali Deraniyagala, author of Wave’Oh, what can I not do, in my dreams. In my dreams I travel on trains and climb mountains, I play concerts and swim rivers, I carry important documents on vital missions, I attend meetings which become song-and-dance routines. My body lies boxed in darkness, but beneath my closed eyelids there is colour, sound and movement, in glorious contrast to the day; mad movies projected nightly in the private theatre of my skull.’ Anna Lyndsey was living a normal life. She enjoyed her job; she was ambitious; she was falling in love. Then the unthinkable happened.It began with a burning sensation on her face when she was exposed to computer screens and fluorescent lighting. Then the burning spread and the problematic light sources proliferated. Now her extreme sensitivity to light in all forms means she must spend much of her life in total darkness. During the best times, she can venture cautiously outside at dusk and dawn, avoiding high-strength streetlamps. During the worst, she must spend months in a darkened room, listening to audiobooks, inventing word-games and fighting to keep despair at bay. Told with great beauty, humour and honesty, Girl in the Dark is the astonishing and uplifting account of Anna’s descent into the depths of her extraordinary illness. It is the story of how, through her determination to make her impossible life possible and with the love of those around her, she has managed to find light in even the darkest of places.”

See more on the Bloomsbury website.

This is what Christina had to say:

“I’m not normally one for memoirs, but this book is an exquisitely written, beautifully structured, heart-wrenching-yet-hopeful masterpiece…..I got lost in the prose, in the way one does with good thrillers, and often found myself blinking up at the light, having been transported into a darkened hell….”

You can read Christina’s full review here.

Girl in the Dark has over 30 five star reviews on Amazon.

The second choice today comes from Eve Seymour, author of Beautiful Losers. Eve’s suggestion for a novel not to be missed is Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, published by Bloomsbury.


“In 1954 a fisherman is found dead in the nets of his boat, and a local Japanese-American man is charged with his murder. In the course of his trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than one man’s guilt. For on San Piedro, memories grow as thickly as cedar trees and the fields of ripe strawberries – memories of a charmed love affair between a white boy and a Japanese girl; memories of land desired, paid for, and lost. Above all, San Piedro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during World War II, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbours watched.”

See more on the Bloomsbury website.

Here’s what Eve had to say about it:

“It’s one of those classic stories within a story.  There are big themes of love and death and racism.  With a slow burn narrative, it made quite an impression on me at the time.  I thought it beautifully crafted and it certainly inspired me to want to write.” 

Snow Falling on Cedars won the PEN/Faulkner award and has over 50 five star reviews on Amazon.

So there we have it, two more books that I’ll admit had passed me by. Have you read either of them? Do let me know if you have a book you think should make it onto readers radars.

12 Comments Add yours

  1. What a great idea, to find these quiet gems and share them. Thanks for taking the initiative I look forward to reading about more of them. I’ve definitely heard of the second one, but the first one sounds like a promising read.


    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks Claire. This is the 15th post (I think!) so there are a few hidden gems discussed on the blog 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so glad to see Girl in the Dark here. It didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved on publication. Lyndsey’s resilience, endurance and humour in such grim circumstances are awe-inspiring and she writes beautifully.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      It sounds very different to what I’d normally read, and fascinating. Glad to hear you loved it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Annabel (gaskella) says:

    What a great idea (my have to borrow it – with acknowledgement of course). I read the Guterson when it first came out and it was a powerful novel. Your first choice is in my TBR pile, and I’m looking forward to it.


    1. janetemson says:

      I hope you enjoy Girl in the Dark when you get to it. I’ll be interested to see your interpretation of highlighting missed gems 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jackie Baldwin says:

    I love the whole concept of the quiet novel and have discovered a few great books from this post. I will be ordering Girl In The Dark!


    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks Jackie. I hope you enjoy Girl in the Dark 🙂


  5. bookbii says:

    I read Girl in the Dark after seeing it reviewed at a life in books, so Susan deserves some credit for spreading the word. It’s a fantastic book. Well deserving of further promotion.


    1. janetemson says:

      She certainly does, I love Susan’s blog and often come across books I wouldn’t have heard about otherwise 🙂 Glad to hear you loved Girl in the Dark too.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Snow falling on cedars is a brilliant book and he’s written some very atmospheric short stories too.


    1. janetemson says:

      I think it’s one I need to add to the TBR for sure, and I’ll definitely have to look those short stories up 🙂


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