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 choice this time comes from Heather Martin. Her book, That Reacher Guy, was published by Constable on 21 October 2021.

She chose So the Doves by Heidi James, published by Bluemoose Books on 30 April 2017.

When award-winning journalist Marcus Murray’s latest story uncovers a corrupt alliance between a UK bank, the arms trade and the government, it seems he has triumphed again in his quest for the truth. But he is accused of fabrication and nothing in his life makes sense any more, including the disappearance twenty years ago of his best friend, Melanie. Why did she vanish, and who is the body recently discovered in a Kent orchard? A timeless story of how love and enduring friendship shape who we are, the novel exposes the fault lines in our reality and who and what we believe to be true, including ourselves.

Here’s what she had to say:

“I don’t know why more people aren’t buying and reading and shouting about So the Doves, by Heidi James. It has everything, both style and substance. It’s a detective story and a love story and a philosophical investigation all rolled into one. It’s a beautiful evocation of time and place. And like all her books (The Sound Mirror is even more astonishing) it both moved me and made me think. I didn’t review it, but I did write a long-read essay for Lit Hub on the uncanny synchronicity between James and Child.”

You can read my Q&A with Heidi and find out more about So the Doves here.

The second suggestion comes from Sarah Bonner. Her debut novel, Her Perfect Twin, will be published by Hodder Studio on 20 January 2022.

She has chosen The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, published by Orbit on 28 August 2014.

SOME STORIES CANNOT BE TOLD IN JUST ONE LIFETIME

No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before.

Nothing ever changes – until now.

As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. ‘I nearly missed you, Doctor August,’ she says. ‘I need to send a message.’

This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.

Here’s what she had to say:

“There’s an author called Claire North whose books I love, but who I don’t think gets enough recognition. She writes mainly speculative fiction and her stories often centre around a single ‘what if’ concept. THE FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST is my favourite and is about a man who lives the same life over and over (with full memory of the previous ones; it’s brilliant.”

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

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