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.

First up is Carole Hailey. Her novel, The Silence Project, was published by Corvus on 9 February 2023.

She suggested two novellas, (“Can I cheat and suggest two? (They’re both very short and so in word-count are the same as a single novel!)”).

Her first suggestion is The Woman from Uruguay by Pedro Mairal, translated by Jennifer Croft, published by Bloomsbury on 27 October 2022.

Lucas Pereyra, an unemployed writer in his forties, embarks on a day trip from Buenos Aires to Montevideo to pick up a fifteen thousand dollar advance in cash. This small fortune might solve his problems, most importantly the unbearable tension in his marriage.

While his wife spends her days at work and her nights out on the town – with a lover, perhaps – Lucas is stuck at home all day staring at the blank page, caring for his son Maiko and fantasizing about the one thing that keeps him going: the Uruguayan woman he recently met at a conference and who he longs to see on this trip.

Here’s what she had to say:

“The Woman from Uruguay by Argentinian author Pedro Mairal (translated by Jennifer Croft) is a perfect example of a ‘life in a day’ novel(ella). It follows an unemployed writer who is travelling from Buenos Aires to Montevideo and back, over the course of one day. It is beautifully crafted, there’s not a word out of place, and pretty much everything it means to be human is exposed in a single day in the protagonist’s life.”

Her second suggestion was Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila, translated by Roland Glasser, published by Jacaranda Books on 1 October 2015.

In an African city in secession land tourists of all languages and nationalities. They have only one desire: to make a fortune by exploiting the mineral wealth of the country. They work during the day in mining concession and, as soon as night falls, they go out to get drunk, dance, eat and abandon themselves in Tram 83, the only night-club of the city, the den of all the outlaws.

Lucien, a professional writer, fleeing the exactions and the censorship, finds refuge in the city thanks to Requiem, a friend. Requiem lives mainly on theft and on swindle while Lucien only thinks of writing and living honestly. Around them gravitate gangsters and young girls, retired or runaway men, profit-seeking tourists and federal agents of a non-existent State.

Here’s what she had to say:

“I’d also like to recommend Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila (translated by Roland Glasser). Part of The Silence Project is set in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and it was only when I was doing research for my novel that I realised the scarcity of DRC literature translated into English. Tram 83 was a stand-out exception. It’s a hilarious, wild, poetic and moving exploration of post-colonialism in a country excited and exhausted, in equal measure, by the exploitation of its mineral-rich land. Mujila’s language is thrillingly energetic and I’m in awe of Roland Glasser’s translation.”

Next up is Cailean Stead. Their novel, Home, was published by Bloomsbury Raven on 19 January 2023.

Cailean chose She and I by Hannah King, published by Bloomsbury Raven on 20 January 2022.

Best friends share everything. But murder is different. Isn’t it?

Keeley and Jude are closer than blood. They share everything: clothes, secrets, drinks – and blame. So when they wake up after a New Year’s party to find Keeley’s boyfriend stabbed to death beside them, they agree to share one more thing: the story they’ll tell the police.

But who is their story really meant to protect?

As the murder investigation begins to send uncomfortable ripples through their community, the history of the girls’ claustrophobic relationship comes under scrutiny, will the girls find there’s such a thing as sharing too much?

Here’s what they had to say:

“‘She and I’ by Hannah King is a debut crime thriller, and it is such a gripping story – it’s just crying out for a TV adaptation as well! The characters are really well drawn, and the plot keeps you guessing the whole way through. It would be loved by anyone who wants a fresh take on a procedural combined with complex character studies.”

So there we have it. Three books that had passed me by. Have you read any of them? Do you have a quiet novel you’d like to shout about? Do let me know.

You can buy The Woman from Uruguay here and Tram 83 here.

You can buy She and I here.

(These are affiliate links so I may make a small amount should you purchase through them. You can also buy all three books from your local independent bookshop.)

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Lovely to see The Woman From Uruguay here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      It sounds fascinating, and one I wasn’t familiar with before.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I second Susan’s comment, although I haven’t read it. I know that sounds strange, but I borrowed The Woman From Uruguay from the library a while ago but didn’t get to it. The other day, browsing library shelves, I saw it and almost borrowed it again. After seeing it here … I’m going back to the library to get it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      It’s a sign to go back and get it! Third time lucky.

      Liked by 1 person

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