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 Caroline Lea. Her latest novel, The Metal Heart, was published by Michael Joseph on 29 April 2021.

She chose The Incarnations by Susan Barker, published by Black Swan on 23 April 2015.

Beijing, 2008, the Olympics are coming, but as taxi driver Wang circles the city’s congested streets, he feels barely alive. His daily grind is suddenly interrupted when he finds a letter in the sunshade of his cab. Someone is watching him. Someone who claims to be his soulmate and to have known him for over a thousand years.

Other letters follow, taking Wang back in time: to a spirit-bride in the Tang Dynasty; to young slaves during the Mongol invasion; to concubines plotting to kill the emperor; to a kidnapping in the Opium War; and to Red Guards during the Cultural revolution.

And with each letter, Wang feels the watcher in the shadows growing closer …

Here’s what she had to say:

“I loved The Incarnations by Susan Barker. It traces the souls of two ‘linked’ characters throughout Chinese history, exploring the ways in which they’re intertwined with each other. Each section reads like a well-crafted short story, but also forms part of the wider narrative, concerning a Beijing taxi driver, who is being stalked by someone who claims to be his soulmate and to have known him for over a thousand years. It’s a brilliant, inventive and utterly absorbing read.”

The second choice is from Claire Fuller. Her latest novel, Unsettled Ground was published by Fig Tree on 25 March 2021 and is shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

She chose One Moonlit Night by Caradog Prichard, published by Canongate on 5 March 2015.

Named Wales’s Greatest Novel

This outstanding novel tells of one boy’s journey into the grown-up world. By the light of a full moon our narrator and his friends Huw and Moi witness a side to their Welsh village life that they had no idea existed, and their innocence is exchanged for the shocking reality of the adult world.

One Moonlit Night is one of Britain’s most significant and brilliant pieces of fiction, a lost contemporary classic that deserves rediscovery.

Here’s what she had to say:

“Oh my, this was so good. A cross between Under Milk Wood and Lanny. Welsh village life with all its death, desertion, gossip, madness, and joy. Lyrical and sometimes mystical its unnamed narrator goes out one moonlit night and remembers his past. The end is shadowy and shocking. It was first published in 1961 in Welsh, and this translation is by Philip Mitchell. How could I only just have heard of this?”

So there we have it, two more books that had flown under my radar. Have you read them? Do you have a quiet book you’d like to shout about? If so, do let me know.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. These both sound very tempting! I’m really surprised I’ve not heard of One Moonlit Night as its so lauded.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      They both sound fabulous. Not sure how either passed me by either!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. BookerTalk says:

    I’ve lived in Wales all my life but had never heard of One Moonlit Night until two years ago. Well worth discovering though. It’s funny but oh so sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      It’s amazing how such books pass us by. It does sound great.


  3. literaryeyes says:

    These both sound so good. I love the sense of mystery and moving through time, and the sense of place.


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