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 suggestion this time comes from Stacey Halls. Her latest novel, The Foundling, was published by Zaffre on 3 September 2020.

She suggested The Hours Before Dawn by Celia Fremlin, published by Faber and Faber (this edition 2017).

Louise would give anything – anything – for a good night’s sleep. Forget the girls running errant in the garden and bothering the neighbours. Forget her husband who seems oblivious to it all. If the baby would just stop crying, everything would be fine.

Or would it? What if Louise’s growing fears about the family’s new lodger, who seems to share all of her husband’s interests, are real? What could she do, and would anyone even believe her? Maybe, if she could get just get some rest, she’d be able to think straight…

Here’s what she had to say:

“This is an old one, first published in the 1950s, but I read The Hours Before Dawn by Celia Fremlin a few years ago when it was reissued, and was astonished at how modern it was. It’s about a young sleep deprived mother with a useless husband and an older female lodger who seems a bit odd. Things soon get quite sinister. It’s so dark and gripping, I tore through it.”

The second suggestion comes from Zoe Someville. Her debut novel, The Night of the Flood, was published by Head of Zeus on 3 September 2020.

She chose Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore, published by Fourth Estate on 11 June 2020.

Mercy is hard in a place like this. I wished him dead before I ever saw his face…

In a place like Odessa, Texas choosing who to trust can be a dangerous game.

Mary Rose Whitehead isn’t looking for trouble – but when it shows up at her front door, she finds she can’t turn away.

Corinne Shepherd, newly widowed, wants nothing more than to mind her own business, and for everyone else to mind theirs. But when the town she has spent years rebelling against closes ranks she realises she is going to have to take a side.

Gloria Ramírez, fourteen years old and out of her depth, survives the brutality of one man only to face the indifference and prejudices of many.

When justice is as slippery as oil, and kindness becomes a hazardous act, sometimes courage is all we have to keep us alive.

Here’s what she had to say:

“This novel is set in the 1970s in ‘oil country’ in West Texas and is the story of various women and girls who live in this brutal and misogynist place. It’s beautifully written and has many of the elements I love in fiction – multiple viewpoints, a vivid setting and complex characters.”

So there we have it, two books that may have passed you by. Have you read either of these books? Do you have a quiet novel you’d like to shout about? Do let me know.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. So pleased to see Valentine getting a bit of exposure. It’s an extraordinarily powerful book, such an impressive debut.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      It sounds great. I’ll have to add it to my to buy list!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Valentine sounds REALLY good!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      It really does!


  3. JacquiWine says:

    The Hours Before Dawn is on my wishlist as it’s a novel that’s been recommended to me a few times in the past. Lovely to see another fan of it here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      It’s been recommended to me before. I’ve read one of hers before which makes me even more intrigued to see if I’d like this.


  4. I’m a *huge* fan of the Fremlin – a wonderful book – so I’m so pleased to see you featuring it! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I am pleased to hear you enjoyed it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. heavenali says:

    The Celia Fremlin is excellent, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I’ve heard a lot of praise for it.


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