Ten Overlooked Novels

John Sutherland of The Guardian recently published an article of the 10 most overlooked novels:

These include Goncharov’s Oblomov


and the monumental Chinese epic alternatively known in English as The Dream of the Red Chamber and The Story of the Stone

Dream of the Red Chamber


as well as Old Somervillian Nina Bawden’s Ice House

The Ice House


In his article Sutherland points out that any such list will obviously be subjective, and has inspired us to put together a brief list of our own, to which we hope you would like to contribute (possibly as a bit of light relief from the travails of Trinity Term)!

Here is what four members of Library Staff have come up with: please give your opinions (be it agreement or disagreement!) and add your own in the comments, on the Somerville College Members Facebook feed or on the display in the Library loggia, where the Library copies of the books will also be on display.


Jane Robinson (Special Collections Assistant and author of Blue Stockings)

Artists in Crime by Ngaio Marsh


Ngaio Marsh is unjustly overlooked in my opinion. Artists in Crime (1938) is one of my favourites. Marsh  elegantly bridges the gap between D.L. Sayers and P.D. James. She’s warmer than James, and I’d far rather be her heroine Agatha Troy, who captures the heart of reserved poet-detective Roderick Alleyne, than Sayers’s rather strenuous Harriet Walter.  I never tire of reading her novels.


Matthew Roper (Library Assistant)

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick


Proof, if needed, that sci fi writers are far too casually pigeon-holed: Dick is never better than when describing worlds/peoples/times close to our own, and in TMITHC he takes the alternate history “genre” to its peak (IMO, obviously!), by introducing an alternate history within the alternate history which is only subtly different from real events. Even, however, should the topic not immediately grab you, the quality of writing surely will – the way he uses and plays with the I Ching is tremendous: I raced through it in a few hours!


Susan Purver (Assistant Librarian)

Keep the Home Guard Turning by Compton Mackenzie

(to which his better-known Whisky Galore is a sequel)


Imagine Dad’s Army crossed with Whisky Galore. Imagine Captain Mainwaring transplanted to a pair of Hebridean islands, where the locals have a very laid-back attitude to time, and rules made by outsiders, and where everything is lubricated with “just a sensation” of whisky.


Anne Manuel (Librarian, Archivist and Head of Information Services)

Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk


Invisible Monsters gets my vote.  A thoughtful and thought-provoking read in a superficially slick style.  To say anything about the plot would be to spoil it.   Read it in a few hours – think about it for days/weeks.

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