The Listener

A Novel

The Listener

Shira Nayman's riveting and haunting first novel of madness and passion is set in a psychiatric hospital just after World War II.

Two years after the end of World War II, a mysterious figure, Bertram Reiner, appears at Shadowbrook, a private asylum whose elegant hallways, vaulted ceilings, and magnificent grounds suggest a country estate more than a psychiatric hospital. At first, the chief psychiatrist—as genteel as his aristocratic surrounds—considers his charismatic patient to be a classic, though particularly intriguing, case of war neurosis. But as treatment progresses, Dr. Harrison's sense of clarity clouds over, and he is drawn into Bertram's disquieting preoccupations.

Then, late one night, an intruder is sighted on the hospital grounds, the first in a series of uncanny events that appear to the doctor to be strangely linked; clues abound, yet the truth about Bertram seems always to slip away. Meanwhile, Dr. Harrison's own long-buried troubles reemerge with brutal force. As the careful contours of his existence begin to waver, the doctor is plunged into dangerous, compulsive territory.

When Dr. Harrison finds himself spying on his head nurse, Matilda, even following her one midnight through the underground tunnels that join the hospital buildings, he knows there is no turning back. He is desperate to get to the bottom of the intertwining mysteries connecting Bertram, Matilda, and himself, and senses that everything in his life—and theirs—is at stake.

Set against the backdrop of the insanity of war, The Listener explores the havoc historical trauma plays with the psyche, and illuminates the uncertain boundary between sanity and insanity. Shira Nayman's storytelling is mesmerizing. The Listener is a riveting tale of madness, mystery, and passion that excavates the dark corners of the human heart and mind. It is a work of rare depth and power.
  • Scribner | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743292894 | 
  • April 2012
List Price $19.99 (price may vary by retailer)
In Stock: Usually ships within 1 business day
Buy from another retailer

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. 

Introduction
 
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

More Books from this Author

Awake in the Dark

About the Author

Shira Nayman
Photo Credit:

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.

BECOME A FAN

Explore

CONNECT WITH US