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.

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 book recommended today is from Rebecca Fleet. Rebecca’s novel, The House Swap was published by Doubleday on 3 May 2018. She suggests Eating People Is Wrong by Malcolm Bradbury, published by Picador.

Forty-year-old university professor Stuart Treece is rather set in his ways, and in the midst of the changing attitudes of the ’50s, his encounters with the younger generation are making him feel decidedly alien. When he falls disastrously in love with one of his students all his efforts to acclimatize are hilariously undermined.

Timeless and brilliant, Eating People is Wrong is Malcolm Bradbury’s first novel, and established him as a master of satire.

Here’s what she had to say about it:

“There is a book called Eating People Is Wrong written by Malcolm Bradbury in the late ‘50s which I love. The thing I find most striking about it is that it is very funny in parts, but also very tragic. I think it’s rare for books to achieve both successfully, and something to aspire to.”

The second suggestion comes from Helen Cullen. Helen’s debut novel, The Lost Letters of William Woolf, is published by Michael Joseph on 12 July 2018. She picked The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, published by Persephone Books.

The Home-Maker describes Evangeline, an obsessively house-proud mother and home-maker who renders each of her children  miserable in different ways, through her perfectionism and her need to control; without realizing it, she is frustrated and bored – yet she thinks she is a good and devoted mother.

Lester, her husband, is also unhappy, at home and at work. It is only when he falls off a roof that his family’s life changes; he is wheelchair-bound at home and his wife goes to work in a department store (the setting is smalltown New England). The children gradually blossom.

Here’s what she has to say:

“This stunning, revolutionary novel was published in 1927 and it is remarkable how much ahead of her time Canfield Fisher was. It tells the tale of the Knapp family and, in particular, Evangeline Knapp who struggles terribly with her role as the perfect mother until an unexpected role reversal with her husband sets her free. I have recommended it to so many people and they are all blown by it.”

So there we have it, too more quiet books being shouted about. I have heard of The Home-Maker and it’s on my list of books to buy already. I may have to bump it up the list!

Have you any quiet books you want to bring to the reading world’s attention? If so, do let me know.

13 Comments Add yours

  1. I love this feature, Janet!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks Nikola, don’t tell anyone but it’s one of my favourites too 🙂


  2. Canfield Fisher ‘s Understood Betsy is a marvel as well–on teaching children to be independent. I’ve wanted to read the Homemaker for years –I might just have to but it now! The other sounds fabulous, too! Excellent reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I’ve not heard of Understood Betsy, I’ll have to look that up. I hope you like The Homemaker if you read it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My kids still talk about Betsy all these years later–it is a book for any age, but impacted them.


  3. I love this feature too! So many books slip past us. I am adding this book to my wishlist. I read The Possible World recently and it’s not getting much attention. I was lost in it and the beautiful writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ^ these books. My phone keeps me from writing intelligently. 😊


    2. janetemson says:

      I hope you like them both. I’ve not read The Possible World so I need to look it up! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. heavenali says:

    I read so many ‘quiet’ novels it’s hard to know where to start. Elizabeth Bowen’s To the North, Philip Larkin’s A Girl in Winter, Mollie Panter Downes’ One Fine Day, the novels of Elizabeth Taylor and Rosamond Lehmann, I could go on. Those best sellers aren’t usually for me, I love the rise of small independent publishers, so often their lists are more interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      Those are all great suggestions. I’ve started to read more ‘quiet’ novels, and that certainly been influenced by you and your reviews. And I agree totally about small publishers.


  5. Really interesting post, Janet! I have a feeling I have (or had…) the Bradbury book somewhere *rushes off to dig in the stacks*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks Karen. Hope you find the Bradbury!

      Liked by 1 person

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