Rediscovering forgotten classics

01 August 2016

For avid bookworms like ourselves there are few things more exciting than accidentally stumbling across the literary equivalent of buried treasure, an undiscovered classic.

The new lease of life enjoyed in recent years by previously neglected literary gems such as John Williams’ Stoner, Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin and J Jefferson Farjeon’s Mystery In White has encouraged publishers and readers alike to seek out underappreciated and under-read books and authors.

For anyone on the hunt for an undiscovered gem, we’ve made things a little easier for you by collecting together our choice of the best books you’ve never heard of. 

A Manual for Cleaning Women

A Manual for Cleaning Women

This selection of 43 stories should by all rights see Lucia Berlin as lauded as Jean Rhys or Raymond Carver' – Independent

Lucia Berlin’s writing is dazzling, evocative, rich, unaffected and shot through with references to her own extraordinary life.

This collection presents humanity in all its forms: love, humour, addiction, pain and loss and marks the re-discovery of a fiercely talented writer whose greatness had gone unrecognized.

For those of you who haven’t yet encountered Lucia Berlin, you’re in for a treat.

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The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor

The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor

‘A weird, funny, perverse exercise in literary messing-about. It's a murder mystery that pulls the rug from under the reader, then pulls the floor from under the rug, then questions whether the floor was even there.’ – Mark Watson

An extraordinary post-modern detective novel from an author who remained a mystery for decades.

When an aspiring actress is found dead on the cutting-room floor of a London film studio, Cameron McCabe finds himself at the centre of a police investigation.

As more people around him die, McCabe begins to perform his own amateur sleuth-work. But then, abruptly, McCabe’s account ends . . .

Who is Cameron McCabe? And if not McCabe, who is the author of The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor?

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The Long View

The Long View

There is no author I have recommended more often' - Hilary Mantel

Originally published in 1956, The Long View is Elizabeth Jane Howard's uncannily authentic portrait of a very middle-class marriage.

It traces the lives of Antonia and Conrad Fleming through the eyes of Antonia, as she looks back on her married life and unravels her choices - good and bad - and the motivations behind them . . .

Elizabeth Jane Howard’s fans include Joanna Lumley, Julian Barnes, Charlotte Mendelson, Rosamunde Pilcher and Hilary Mantel, has called The Long View, ‘a little miracle’.

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Quartet in Autumn

Quartet in Autumn

The most underrated writer of the century’ - Philip Larkin

A writer from the age of sixteen, throughout the 1960s Pym faced years of rejection from publishers who considered her unpretentious, darkly funny stories of everyday life too old-fashioned.

Quartet in Autumn is perhaps her finest work, it follows the lives of Edwin, Norman, Letty and Marcia who work in the same office in 1970s London and suffer the same problem - loneliness.

Lovingly and with delightful humour, Pym conducts us through their day-to-day existence: their preoccupations, their irritations, their judgements, and - perhaps most keenly felt - their worries about having somehow missed out on life.

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The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher

The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher

Ahn Do-hyun is a multi-million bestselling, award-winning Korean writer but his modern fable, The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher, is his first work to be translated into English.

Wise, tender and inspiring, this is the story of a salmon whose silver scales mark him out as different - who dares to leap beyond his fate. It's a story about growing up, and about aching and ardent love.

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Caroline

Caroline

A brilliant study of possessiveness . . . Miss Crompton's portrait of a domineering woman is completely uncompromising’ - Daily Mail

Richmal Crompton is best known as the author of the Just William series of children’s books; her writing for adults has been comparatively forgotten. Crompton went so far as to say of her creation, ‘for many years I looked on William as “my character”. He was my puppet. I pulled the strings. But gradually the tables have been turned. I am his puppet.’

Arguably the best of Crompton's 'lost' adult novels, Caroline is the story of the oldest of four oprhaned children who, having sacrificed her own life to take care of her siblings, cannot bear to relinquish her hold on them. 

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The Tobacconist

The Tobacconist

Robert Seethaler’s tender novel about finding dignity and beauty in solitude, A Whole Life, was one of the surprise literary success stories of last year. Despite outselling A Whole Life in Germany, his previous novel The Tobacconist will be available in English for the first time this year.

Seventeen-year-old Franz accepts an apprenticeship with the elderly tobacconist Otto Trsnyek and is soon supplying the great and good of Vienna with their newspapers and cigarettes.

It is 1937. In a matter of months Germany will annex Austria and the storm that has been threatening to engulf the little tobacconist will descend, leaving the lives of Franz, Otto and their customers irredeemably changed.

The Tobacconist tells a deeply moving story of ordinary lives profoundly affected by the Third Reich.

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