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.

Today’s first suggestion is from Susmita Bhattacharya, author of The Normal State of Mind. Her suggestion is The Village by the Sea by Anita Desai, published by Puffin.


“A story of survival set in a small fishing villlage near Bombay. Lila and Hari, aged 13 and 12, struggle to keep the family, including two young sisters, going when their mother is ill and their father usually the worse for drink. When Hari goes to Bombay to find work, Lila seems to be responsible for everything. Although the book paints a picture of extreme poverty, it demonstrates the strength of the family even in the most extreme circumstances and offers a powerful picture of another culture.”
Read more on the Puffin website.

Here’s what she had to say about it:

“I love Anita Desai’s The Village by the Sea. It was part of our school syllabus 25 years ago, but even now, it draws me in. The story, about two young children surviving in the big, bad city of Bombay (as it was called then) still has a charm that has not quite diminished. It is a pleasure to read it with my children, as the themes cross continents and cultures. And Anita Desai is one of my favourite writers.” 

The second suggestion is by Kate Frost, author of The Butterfly Storm. Her suggestion is Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, published by Black Swan.


“When Israel Finch and Tommy Basca, the town bullies, break into the home of school caretaker Jeremiah Land, wielding a baseball bat and looking for trouble, they find more of it than even they expected. For seventeen-year-old Davey is sitting up in bed waiting for them with a Winchester rifle. His younger brother Reuben has seen their father perform miracles, but Jeremiah now seems as powerless to prevent Davey from being arrested for manslaughter, as he has always been to ease Reuben’s daily spungy struggle to breathe. Nor does brave and brilliant nine-year-old Swede, obsessed as she is with the legends of the wild west, have the strength to spring Davey from jail. Yet Davey does manage to break out. He steals a horse, and disappears. His family feels his absence so sorely, the three of them just pile into their old Plymouth, towing a brand new 1963 Airstream trailer, and set out on a quest to find him. And they follow the outlaw west, right into the cold, wild and empty Dakota Badlands. Set in the 1960s on the edge of the Great Plains, PEACE LIKE A RIVER is that rare thing, a contemporary novel with an epic dimension. Told in the touching voice of an asthmatic eleven-year-old boy, it revels in the legends of the West, resonates with a soul-expanding sense of place, and vibrates with the possibility of magic in the everyday world. Above all, it shows how family, love, and faith can stand up to the most terrifying of enemies, the most tragic of fates” (Image and synopsis from Amazon)

Here’s what she had to say about it:

“He’s only written two books and this was his debut and a stunning one it is. Set in Minnesota and North Dakota in the 1960s and told from the perspective of Reuben, an asthmatic nine year-old boy, it’s in turn evocative, heartbreaking and uplifting and the characters simply ooze off the page, particularly Reuben’s nine year-old sister, Swede. It was one of those rare books that I kept thinking about when I wasn’t reading it and the characters and story haunted me long after finishing the last page.” 

So there we have it, two more books that may have passed you by, but which could find a home on your bookshelf. Do let me know if you’ve uncovered any hidden gems that you think should be more widely read.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. MarinaSofia says:

    Mind you, when I saw Leif Enger as an author name, I thought it would be a Scandi Noir thriller…


    1. janetemson says:

      He’s definitely missing a trick there.


  2. Another two great sounding books for this feature Janet – I do like the sound of Peace Like a River, having read a couple of great books from the perspective of a child last year, I’m far more open to them now.


    1. janetemson says:

      I’d not heard of either of these books before this post. They both sound interesting.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.