In Praise of Quiet Books

A brief digression to mention something that occurred to me lately - that the books I generally prefer are the 'quiet' books. Books without high drama or flashy action scenes; books that focus on character rather than plot; books that unfold gradually, drawing you deeper into their world. They often have a reflective quality, musing implicitly on history or philosophy, or even religion, books that possess a quiet, atmospheric magic.

It's often easier to find this sort of book among children's books of days gone by: I'm thinking of books like When Marnie Was There, Ballet Shoes, Charlotte Sometimes, the books of Rumer Godden and Lucy M. Boston (the Green Knowe books), or The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. These are books that are hard to 'sell' in a single tagline; because they lack a gripping plot, they are difficult to summarise. But these are the books that can be re-read over and over, the books that sink deep into your soul.

Kirsty Murray's The Four Seasons of Lucy Mackenzie is an example of a recent 'quiet book.' But I fear they have become an endangered species in this day and age, when a marketing hook is mandatory. Can anyone recommend any others?


  1. Forthcoming book by Nova Weetman Frankie and Joely (May, I think) fits this description - I found it really involving though nothing huge and dramatic happens and most of the change is internal. I think they are endangered, sadly. (ps - I happily found Crow Country today! Reading a few years behind, as ever.)

  2. Ooh, thank you, will have to check that one out. On further reflection, maybe what I relish is a hint of melancholy -- there's not much tolerance for melancholy in children's (or YA) lit these days!

  3. A Pale View of the Hills. Kazou Ishiguro's first novel. Still one of my favourite books. Not kids lit, I'm sorry, but so quiet, and incredibly powerful.

  4. I haven't read that one! Sounds great, thanks for the rec, Jen.

  5. Hello Kate,
    I do understand about quiet books. I have a list of titles that I call my "comfort books". Some of them belonged to my grandmother - for instance, "Jemima Rides" by an author called Anne Hepple; it's a 1920s romance set in the Scottish borders, a bit "All Creatures Great and Small" with lots of nature, landscape, farm folk and humour. A bestseller in its day! Guaranteed to get me through a bout of flu.
    And in in junior fiction, have you read anything by Ruth M Arthur? A Candle in her Room, Requiem for a Princess, The Whistling Boy? I loved them when I was a young teenager, and re-read A Candle a little while ago - and still loved it.
    All the best,

  6. Oh, I'd forgotten about Ruth M Arthur! She was well represented in the library of my childhood -- must look them up again. Thank you, Susan!