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 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.

First up is Cara Hunter. Her novel Close to Home was published by Penguin on 14 December 2017.

Cara chose Villette by Charlotte Bronte (published by various publishers, the edition shown is published by Vintage.)

When Lucy Snowe leaves England to look for a new life on the Continent she has no idea what lies in store for her. This quiet, lonely girl must learn quickly when she finds herself teaching in a foreign school, with no friends or family to rely on. However it’s not long until figures from Lucy’s past appear and she becomes involved in dilemmas which inspire new and passionate feelings in her.
Read more on the Penguin website.

Here’s what she had to say:

“I’m going back to my Eng Lit roots with this one and I’m going to plump for Charlotte Bronte’s Villette. Everyone always talks about Jane Eyre but I think Villette is much better. And such a wonderfully ambiguous do-they-don’t-they ending….”

The second choice is from Stuart Turton, whose debut novel, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, was published by Bloomsbury Raven on 8 February 2018.

He’s picked The Unfortunates by B S Johnson, published by Picador.

A sports journalist, sent to a Midlands town on a weekly assignment, finds himself confronted by ghosts from the past when he disembarks at the railway station. Memories of one of his best, most trusted friends, a tragically young victim of cancer, begin to flood through his mind as he attempts to go about the routine business of reporting a football match.

B. S. Johnson’s famous ‘book in a box’, in which the chapters are presented unbound, to be read in any order the reader chooses, is one of the key works of a novelist now undergoing an enormous revival of interest. It is a book of passionate honesty and dark, courageous humour: a meditation on death and a celebration of friendship which also offers a remarkably frank self-portrait of its author.

Here’s what he had to say:

“It’s undergoing a bit of a revival at the minute, so this may not count, but I love BS Johnson’s book-in-a-box, The Unfortunates. It was published in 1969 and dispenses with bound pages in favour of 27 sections you can read in any order. It’s about a sports reporter wandering through Nottingham thinking about his dead friend, and Johnson hoped to replicate the randomness of his character’s thoughts and emotions by completely removing a strict narrative sequence. I love anything that messes with structure, or the form of a novel, so this delights me.”

So there we have it, two more books I’ve not read, though I was at least familiar with Villette, and actually have a copy on my bookcase to read. Have you read either of the suggested titles? Do you have a quiet book you’d like to shout about?

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Villette was an A Level set text for me. Not sure I every quite got over that, although I came to love Bleak House which was also on the syllabus.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I’ve only read Jane Eyre, which I love, though I first came across it as part of my A level exam and we’d never even studied the text!


  2. I have Cara’s book to read which I’m really looking forward to. Also, I loved Villette. I did my dissertation on Charlotte Bronte and I agree that it is better than Jane Eyre!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I’ve only read Jane Eyre by Charlotte and Agnes Grey by Anne. I was at the Parsonage a few weeks ago and I reminded myself I still need to read the other novels!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a lovely idea! The format of the Johnson book attracts me immensely though I’m not sure the subject matter is entirely something for me.


    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks! I agree, I love the idea of the format. Not sure if it’s a book for me. I do wonder if he wrote it in a random order too?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have only read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and I’m going to have to read Villette. I always enjoy these posts, Janet.


    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks Abbie. I like finding out about all of the different books too :-). I hope you like Villette.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. winstonsdad says:

    I love the Johnson my book would be encyclopaedia of snow by Sarah Emily Miano a wonderful novel with interlinking stories all with snow as a theme and love


    1. janetemson says:

      I’ve not heard of that one, I’ll have to look it up 🙂


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