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 Adele Geras. Her latest novel, written as Hope Adams, is Dangerous Women which was published by Michael Joseph on 4 March 2021. She has suggested an author, rather than a book. She picked Dorothy Whipple, whose books are published by Persephone Books.

Avery North has been contentedly married to Ellen for 20 years, they have two children and live in the rural commuter belt outside London. Then his mother advertises for a companion, and the French girl who arrives sets her sights on Avery, callously threatening the happy marriage.

The main theme of They Were Sisters (1943) is that three sisters’ choice of husband dictates whether they have homes, and whether, in their homes, they will be allowed to flourish, be tamed or repressed. We see three different choices and three different husbands: the best-friend, soul-mate husband of the one sister, who brings her great joy; the would-be companionable husband of another, who over-indulges and finally bores her; and the bullying husband who turns a high-spirited, naive young girl into a deeply unhappy woman. It is the last husband, Geoffrey, who is the most horrifying character in The Were Sisters.

Man’s cruelty to woman is a frequent theme in Dorothy Whipple’s novels, but nowhere was there more scope for man to be cruel to his wife than in Britain before the reform of the divorce laws.

Here’s what she had to say:

“I am absolutely evangelical about a writer called Dorothy Whipple. All her novels are published by Persephone Books (most beautifully) and I urge your readers to find them and read them. They’re completely WONDERFUL! My favourites are Someone at a Distance and They Were Sisters. Just outstanding and written in the late 30s and 40s. Please try them!”

I have read Young Anne by Dorothy Whipple, you can read my review here.

The second title was picked by SE Moorhead. Her novel, Witness X was published by Trapeze on  6 February 2020. She chose Say Goodbye When I’m Gone by Stephen J Golds, published by Red Dog Press.

1949: Rudy, A Jewish New Yorker snatches a briefcase of cash from a dead man in Los Angeles and runs away from his old life, into the arms of the Boston mob.

1966: Hinako, a young Japanese girl runs away from what she thought was the suffocating conformity of a life in Japan. Aiming to make a fresh start in America, she falls into the grip of a Hawaiian gang dubbed ‘The Company’.

1967: Rudy and Hinako’s lives collide in the city of Honolulu, where there is nowhere left for either of them to run, and only blood to redeem them.

Here’s what she had to say:

“This is a skillfully written gritty noir book with well-developed characters and a gripping story line not for the faint hearted. It focuses on choices and consequences and left my head spinning.

Golds is a writer who defo deserves to get his work to a wider readership for this brutally beautiful and at time heart-breaking debut.”

So there we have it, an author I need to read more of and another book that had flown under my radar. Have you read either of them? Do you have a quiet book that you’d like to shout about? If so, do let me know.

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