The Listener

A Novel

The Listener

  • Scribner | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743292894 | 
  • April 2012
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Listener includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Shira Nayman. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. 

When Dr. Harrison, the distinguished and steadfast head of the Shadowbrook mental hospital, meets the charismatic and brilliant Bertram Reiner – diagnosed with a severe case of Battle Fatigue – he finds the most challenging patient of his career. Their sessions leave Dr. Harrison slipping into a frightening, but also strangely enlivening, existence that renders the boundaries between sanity and insanity disquietingly blurred. When Dr. Harrison discovers that Bertram is having an affair with Matilda, the head nurse whom he himself has feelings for, his own yearnings threaten to throw his sanity into the balance. The Listener explores the burdens of history, memory and insanity in a post-World War II asylum.


Questions for Discussion

1.       The narrative begins with a prologue, a slice of time from the middle of the story. “Bertram is gone.” (p. 3) How did this frame your reading of the novel? How did this sh see more

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About the Author

Shira Nayman
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Shira Nayman

Shira Nayman grew up in Australia. She has a master's degree in comparative literature and a doctorate in clinical psychology, and has worked as a psychologist and a marketing consultant. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including The Atlantic Monthly, The Georgia Review, New England Review, and Boulevard. The recipient of two grants from the Australia Council for the Arts Literature Board, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.