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 is from Lissa Evans. Her latest novel V for Victory was published by Doubleday on 27 August 2020.

She picked The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, published by Fourth Estate. 

Quoyle is a hapless, hopeless hack journalist living and working in New York. When his no-good wife is killed in a spectacular road accident, Quoyle heads for the land of his forefathers – the remotest corner of far-flung Newfoundland.

With ‘the aunt’ and his delinquent daughters – Bunny and Sunshine – in tow, Quoyle finds himself part of an unfolding, exhilarating Atlantic drama. ‘The Shipping News’ is an irresistible comedy of human life and possibility.

Here’s what she had to say:

“There’s a shelf in my bedroom where the re-reads sit: old friends, always ready for another visit, the pages freckled with the odd coffee-stain, the spines lacking in …well, backbone : most are books that I tend to dip into, each falling open at favourite passages, but a small number I re-read from start to finish…The Shipping News by Annie Proulx is also on that shelf. The opening chapter is a jolting read for a first-timer – a rapid run through Quoyle’s early life, short sentences like slaps in the face, half-phrases and broken clauses like missing steps, together building a vivid picture of a man who cannot find a place in life, who is forever standing awkwardly on the margins…And there’s an extra reason for my affinity with this book. My mother was a voracious reader, largely of history and fiction (she loved detective stories so much that she used to give them up for Lent). She adored The Shipping News and read it once a year and now, when it’s my turn for a re-read, it’s like having a conversation with her…”

You can read Lissa’s full review here

The next book was suggested by Nicola Gill. Her latest novel, We Are Family, was published by Avon on 3 September 2020.

She has chosen Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny, also published by Fourth Estate. 

Graham’s second wife, Audra, is an unrestrained force of good nature. She talks non-stop through her epidural, labour and delivery, invites the doorman to move in and the eccentric members of their son’s Origami Club to Thanksgiving. When she decides to make friends with Elsbeth – Graham’s first wife and Audra’s polar opposite – Graham starts to wonder: how can anyone love two such different women? And did he make the right choice?

Here’s what she had to say. 

“…I thought [it] was just wonderful. It’s a laugh out loud yet poignant portrait of a marriage.”

So there we have it, two more books that are gently being shouted about. I haven’t read either but from the descriptions it sounds like I should. Have you read either title? Do you have a quiet novel you want to shout about? Do let me know. 

3 Comments Add yours

  1. I really like The Shipping News! It’s been ages since I read it. Standard Deviation looks interesting, I’ll look out for it.


  2. Oh I loved The Shipping News! It’s been so long, I’d be tempted to reread!


  3. Joanne says:

    I read The Shipping News ages ago but to be honest don’t recall much about it. I do like the sound of Standard Deviation.


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