The Listener

There was definitely a lot to listen to in this book and in some ways this made it a challenging read. From the outset I was intrigued by the positioning of the reader as a voyeur to a psychiatrist’s private interviews with patients. This clearly made the reader uncomfortable with the insight and knowledge acquired during the sessions and I think that this, in part, is what made this book so fascinating.

The novel is set two years after the end of World War II, in a psychiatric hospital in America where a Dr Harrison is the director. The prose fluctuated between meetings between the Dr and his patients and other passages where the reader is privy to the good doctor’s own neuroses and most interestingly, his complicated relationship with his first and then second wife.

Slowly, as the novel unfolds, the reader comes to understand that in many ways, Dr Harrison is himself as disturbed as his patients. It is the meetings with an illusive character called Bertram Reiner which prove to undo him finally.

There are many ironies in this text and the contextual insight is riveting. Possibly the most intriguing aspect of this context is the far reaching impact that the war had on people in active service as well as those who stayed to watch the home front. The book is filled with references to necessary developments in the field of psychiatry which needed to take into account the consequences of the impact of war on morality as well as the challenges of reconciling the past with the present.

Nayman does a superb job of meeting the reader’ expectations in this novel and if you have the patience to persevere I have no doubt that you find the book rewarding.

<a href=”The Listener: A Novel“>Buy the kindle version.

Buy the paper version.

Read the author’s webpage.

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