Cover Image: The Listeners

The Listeners

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Member Reviews

One day, Claire realizes she's able to hear a hum others don't. After thorough medical tests, Claire and her family search--and find--others able to hear this hum. That's when the weirdness started. I buckled up for suspense and was prepared for terror, but all I got was a story revolving around conspiracy theories and religious fanatism. And that's why I quit at roughly 40%.
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This book had such a great concept and I'm so glad I can say it didn't flop whatsoever! Whilst there wasn't that much of a plot, I thought the writing was really engaging and I really wanted to find out where the hum was coming from! It kind of reminded me of The Power by Naomi Alderman and Vox by Christina Dalcher, so if you liked any of these books, I would highly recommend reading The Listeners.
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A fantastic book which is well written and completely engaging. I have been completely pulled in and kept hostage by this one. 
This is unique, intriguing and one that I have devoured.
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I’m afraid this one wasn’t for me. The main character’s voice read like a man trying to write a woman and getting it wrong, and it distracted me from the story itself.
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The Listeners is very well written and explores some interesting areas and ideas, but I’m not sure what it added up to in the end.

It’s a good premise: a number of people can hear a permanent hum which is inaudible to most others.  It is not clear what its source is and eventually some who can hear it get together to form a sort of support group.  Jordan Tannahill then uses this to explore aspects of group dynamics without making glib statements or, indeed, drawing many conclusions at all about what he depicts.  His use of Claire as an intelligent and articulate but possibly unreliable narrator works very well for this as we get her subjective experience of the hum and its effect on her, and of her experience in finding others, the group they form and the consequences for her family, career and life as a whole.

It’s well executed and there is a lot of very good depiction and discussion of things like whether the group may be a cult (and what that word may mean), conspiracy theories, how fear and anger may drive people both inside and outside the group, and so on.  Tannahill offers no clear answers to anything, which is laudable because there probably are none, but as a result I wasn’t quite sure what the point of the book was.  It certainly had some interesting things to say, but in the end I found the nebulousness of it left me grasping for much to take away.  

I think I’m glad I read this and I may well continue to think about and digest the book for some time.  Three stars would be churlish so I’ve rounded 3.5 up to four, but it’s a qualified recommendation.

(My thanks to 4th Estate for an ARC via NetGalley.)
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I fear this one is not for me. For a start, I always hate when an author decides not to use speech marks - do they really think it makes the book more readable or more profound? If so, I beg to differ. Secondly, some of the scenes go on for ever, going round and round in circles full of repetitive and uninteresting dialogue, like the first meeting of the group where a bunch of strangers pour out their intimate secrets to each other within about five minutes, as you do. At one point, one of the characters complains that he hadn't come for a group therapy session, and I found myself nodding vigorously in agreement - nor had I. I disliked the narrator, Claire, intensely - one of these narcissistic, introspective, self-obsessed, whiny people that seem to be the "heroes" of too many books these days. But even Claire isn't as revoltingly egotistical as her horrid daughter - as good an argument for celibacy as I've come across. The other characters either failed to impinge on me at all, or failed to convince me when they did.

When I realised that I hadn't picked the book up in nearly a week, I decided it was time to call it quits. I made it to 46%. I'm giving it two stars because I didn't hate it. I simply found it uninteresting.
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This is an interesting exploration of ideas that all coalesce around a simple yet intriguing plot point: what happens when a group of people start hearing a sound that most around them cannot perceive? Out of this kernel, Tannahill has concocted a story that winds together issues of mystery, faith, conviction and which also comments on the kind of vast conspiracy theories that are increasingly part of our social fabric: anti-vaxxers, covid-sceptics and QAnon, while harking back to older ideas of a secret cabal who are secretly manipulating world banks and hold all the power in the world.

What is clever about this book is that we are gradually introduced via a very human narrator, a school teacher in a small American town, whose own scepticism about Christianity gets redirected into a kind of eco-religion. Drawn into a group - are they a cult? what does that even mean? -she finds succour after the breakdown of her own family life - but questions of power, mental health and material explanations for The Hum are both raised and yet not easily dissolved.

Throughout, Claire herself and a few other characters are reading Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, a purposeful clue to this being a book about a clash of ideas, and also raising questions of how life is experienced via the body and mind (spirit, I think, is the term that Mann uses). Concepts of mystery and wonder are raised but evade any kind of definition or explanation - isn't that their defining essence?

So while this is compellingly written, don't go into it expecting a thriller or horror story - Tannahill has wrapped up some profound ideas in something that is masquerading as a page-turner with some dark and also more cartoonish humour along the way.
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So, what’s the buzz on this book?

Or, should I say the “HUM”?

One night, Claire Devon realizes that she is hearing a constant low hum that won’t go away. Her husband Paul doesn’t hear it. Neither does her daughter, Ashley. 

Tests rule out anything “medical” so friends and her family begin to question her mental health, making Claire feel frustrated and alone. Finally, one of her students, Kyle, shares with her that he can hear it too. 

Eventually they track down others, and begin to turn towards the group and it’s beliefs, and away from their own families who do not share their views. They embrace each other and want to learn to TUNE INTO the resonance that only they can hear.

I was intrigued for the first 25% and was HOPING for a story like ANY of those that M. Night Shyamalan gives us, or one like John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” (2018).  I thought I would be reading a sci-fi/ horror tale. 

What I got was a story exploring religion, conspiracy theories and how extreme beliefs can tear apart families and neighbors with devastating and often violent consequences. 

NOT FOR ME

I get enough of THAT on the news. 

Thank You to 4th Estate for my gifted copy! It was my pleasure to offer a candid review. 
This book is available now.
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Not for me I'm afraid. I was drawn in by that amazing cover and the blurb but the contents did not deliver for me personally.
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I felt like I was seeing this book everywhere thanks to a super creative marketing campaign and I was so excited to read. It started off really strong, I was hooked within the first few pages, but sadly it seemed to lose steam a quarter of the way through and never really went anywhere. A real shame, but it had some great characters and the underlying concept had a lot of potential.
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I really liked the concept of this novel - a paranoid search for a sound only some people can hear - and I enjoyed that it was about as contemporary as a story can be without invoking Covid, including mentions of Trump and conspiracy theories, but I did find some of it just a bit too slow.
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I loved the premise of this book and really enjoyed the marketing campaign to get people interested. But I didn't feel thst it lived up to my expectations. It was an interesting theme, but didnt quite hit the mark for me I'm afraid.
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I thought it was going to be a speculative fiction book when I started it out but I was pleasantly surprised on the direction Jordan Tannahill lead it to. Much more interesting to see! However I was so so annoyed about the character of Ashley, such an insensitive child.
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I really enjoyed The Listening and feel as though I've not really read anything quite like it before. The premise is very dystopian - a mysterious sound that only some can hear - but the story is strongly rooted in our present time.  It alludes to Trump, QAnon, anti-vaxxers, cults, conspiracy theories, the media etc in a way that contrasts with the dystopian feel of the beginning. The Hum's origin (initially the driving force of the plot) stops being important quite quickly, and it becomes much more about its effects on those that can hear it and the havoc it wreaks for their relationships with those that can't. I liked the way this contrast of dystopia/reality makes Claire's reality feel dystopian, and the ways that it makes our own reality of fake news, media hysteria and conspiracy theories feel the same. 

I liked the way Tannahill wrote on female emotion, hysteria and anger (quite a lot of cliches about burning witches etc but the way Tannahill writes on this is still enjoyable), and I especially like how he writes on gendered relationship dynamics and roles - the portrayals of the husbands and the mothers are really interesting. He shows very well how gender comes into how we display emotion, how we process stress/difficulty, how we are treated in a crisis. I also like the cult/conspiracy elements, where Tannahill depicts the total disintegration of mental stability that comes with being enveloped in this world of the listeners, whilst also showing the strong (and necessary) sense of community it brings. It's a really interesting conflict to think about particularly in light of things like QAnon, cults and even terrorist groups in the 'real world'.

I do wish this was a longer book - the plot felt very rushed in places with little time spent on key moments (like the breakdown of Claire's marriage/family) or on character development. Still a very enjoyable book with interesting characters (albeit sparsely described), a gripping plot and a fascinating, very likeable and articulate narrator.
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As someone who suffers from frequent migraines, the idea of a woman who is plagued by a constant hum no-one else can hear really resonated with me (no pun intended!). The concept of the story is a great one, when only a select number of people can hear the noise it opens up the door to conspiracy theories and cult leanings and it was fascinating to see the characters descend into madness when their friends and family are unable to empathise with them.

That said, I had a few issues with the book, the first being the characters. I don’t think I actually liked any of the characters. Although we obviously feel sorry for Claire as her life falls apart around her, some of the decisions she makes are truly idiotic (particularly in regards to Kyle) and I found myself yelling at my Kindle in frustration with her at times! Her family are also problematic, I’d like to think that if I heard a noise that no-one else could hear but had physical symptoms such as nosebleeds, headaches and insomnia that my family would take me seriously and try to help. Noises that are above a certain frequency that only younger people can hear is a real phenomenon as is Tinnitus so I didn’t really understand why Claire’s family were so keen to not believe her. Her daughter in particular is really cold and unlikeable and doesn’t redeem herself at all throughout the book. The Hummers group is filled with characters, but I didn’t feel like we got to know any of them well enough, I actually found it hard to distinguish between them at times.

Another issue that I had with the book was it’s writing style, the book is written in Claire’s perspective throughout but the dialogue is quite rambling and written very ‘in the moment’. There’s also no punctuation to denote speech (no speech marks) and so it’s actually quite hard to tell what is observation from the narrator and what is dialogue. There’s a very rambling, over-long chapter in the middle where the Hummers first meet and this is what makes it so hard to get to know the characters as all the dialogue seems quite similar.

The story is quite interesting, although there seemed to be some major plot-holes. Why did no-one just speak out that they could hear the noise publicly rather than starting a secret group about it? As all of their symptoms seemed to happen around the same time I’m sure they would have been taken seriously as a group. I also didn’t understand the ‘cult’ like element with Howard the group leader. We never really saw much evidence that he was taking advantage of them throughout so the end reveal again felt very unrealistic.

Overall, The Listeners is a good premise but its unlikeable characters, clunky dialogue and lack of realism let it down. Thank you to NetGalley & Fourth Estate for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Family drama, conspiracy theories, mental health, maybe a cult? The book kept me interested throughout - the very believable character of Clare suddenly starts hearing a hum - it keeps her awake and she can't shut it out. After meeting a group of people in the same situation, her life starts to fall apart....Gripping read, I didn't get any sleep after finishing it, I think I'm starting to heat the Hum too!
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One night, as she is lying in bed next to her husband, Claire Devon, a middle-aged teacher, becomes aware of a hum, a low sound that from that moment on will never abandon her, leaving her exhausted and giving her other symptoms, such as a nosebleed. At first, the only person who is experiencing the same pheomenon is Kyle, on of her 17-year-old students and a schoolmate of her daughter. Not only are their nerves wrecked, but they are also considered insane by those surrounding them, and the two have no other option than clinging on to each other and engage in innocent albeit illicit and highly compromising car tours around the town in search of the source of the noise. Such a connection cannot go unnoticed and the consequences for the teacher are dire, especially because Kyle is a minor. 

It turns out that the two are not alone, and they join a newly-formed local self-help group in the neighbourhood. The members of the group are a weird bunch swaying between conspiracy theories, calls to armed responses, and mystical, new-ageish aspirations to connect with the hum. Soon the support group takes up the dimension of a cult – in particular a sexual cult -- to the eyes of those who do not perceive the noise. 

The author’s confident, sagacious prose delivers a subtle and exhilarating satire worthy of a good comedy. Obvious targets are conspiracies and sectarianism, and the author show just how easy it is to get drawn into them. Some characters are well drawn and hilarious at the same time, among which Kyle’s mother, obsessed with protecting her teen son, the discredited university professor-turned-guru and the proactive gun-crazed type ready for action. All in all a timely satire of well recognizable attitudes to be found in American society (and elsewhere) in an age of uncertainty. This was wonderful, exhilarating read written with gusto that surprised me and exceeded my expectations. I felt characterization was fresh and, while using types, avoided the flatness of stereotyping. This was a great, exhilarating read that exceeded my expectations, up to the dramatic finale. 

I am thankful to the publisher for an ARC of this book via NetGalley
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I loved the premise of this book, but the pacing of the plot fell a tiny bit short for me. I really enjoyed that it focused more on the impact of the "hum" and the search for an understanding community, whilst touching on the diversity of the group, as opposed to being a quest to find the source. The characters were strong and you really empathise with Claire's plight and I enjoyed her grappling with the differences between faith and mania.

For me, however, I think the pacing meant that I didn't have enough time to get invested in the dynamics between the support group, particularly Howard's so-called "grooming", which resulted in the showdown between them and the police feeling a bit disjointed. There were some slightly cringe-worthy moments towards the climax of the plot (pun intended), but I found the aftermath and Claire's journey to rebuild her life fascinating too.

A mixed read overall! It was enjoyable but needed a bit more.
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The Listeners is the story about a woman named Claire who starts hearing a humming sound and gets drawn into a strange and intoxicating group, almost a cult, as they process The Hum. This novel has a great premise and explores the wider impact of cults and obsessive behaviour on an individual’s loved ones. The most successful part of this book was in the aftermath and Claire struggled to get her life back and move on from events.

For me the book never quite lived up to its premise and I found it was more philosophical than engrossing and thriller esque and the humour didn’t quite land for me either. While the group was interesting in its diverse range of “listeners” showing who can be sucked into that kind of community, I never bought into Claire’s commitment and I didn’t feel like there was enough of Howard’s grooming of the followers to understand why they all became so involved. Even though we were told they became like a family, that kind of bond never rang true.

Overall, interesting themes but not strong enough to be memorable or resonating.
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Wow this was incredible! It got me hooked from the very start, and I stayed well past my bedtime reading it compulsively! So original and utterly believable. The characters were spot on, and I was there for the whole of tuning in when it got properly weird. What a fantastic read - I am completely intrigued by what this book with inspired by! 100% recommend!
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