When I heard Anne Griffin had a new book coming, I was beside myself. I just adored her debut When All is Said. You’ll find my review of that book here. My enormous thanks to lovely Elaine Egan for ensuring I received a copy of Anne’s latest book, Listening Still, in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that review today.
Published by Hachette imprint Sceptre on 29th April, Listening Still is available for purchase through these links.
Jeanie Masterson has a gift: she can hear the recently dead and give voice to their final wishes and revelations. Inherited from her father, this gift has enabled the family undertakers to flourish in their small Irish town. Yet she has always been uneasy about censoring some of the dead’s last messages to the living. Unsure, too, about the choice she made when she left school seventeen years ago: to stay or leave for a new life in London with her charismatic teenage sweetheart.
So when Jeanie’s parents unexpectedly announce their plan to retire, she is jolted out of her limbo. In this captivating successor to her bestselling debut, Anne Griffin portrays a young woman who is torn between duty, a comfortable marriage and a role she both loves and hates and her last chance to break free, unaware she has not been alone in softening the truth for a long while.
My Review of Listening Still
Jeannie can speak with the dead.
I adored Listening Still. Having thought Anne Griffin’s When All Is Said was just fabulous I feared Listening Still might not touch me emotionally in quite the same way, but Anne Griffin is fast becoming one of the most beautiful writers of the modern age. She has an unerring ability to display her characters’ souls in a way that I find breath-taking.
The plot is so well devised. Consummate story telling uncovers Jennie’s past so that her layers and experiences are smoothly revealed, resulting in incredible empathy for her in the reader’s heart. Jeannie’s life is woven through the conversations she has with dead people in a compelling and spell binding manner. I was devastated by some of the events that happen to her – and those that don’t – and felt by the end of Listening Still I knew her completely. She is such a magnificent creation, combining elements and emotions so many of us can relate to. Her relationships with Fionn and Niall almost broke me. The depth of emotion displayed is totally affecting. I cannot stop thinking about Jeannie and wondering how she is doing now.
However, Listening Still isn’t just compelling narrative entertainment that Anne Griffin manages create so evocatively, but she presents Ireland, her traditions, her oral history, her sense of community and proprietary influence in individual lives so clearly that the setting sings from the pages making the country every bit as much a character as any of the people.
For a book built on the premise of talking with the dead, Listening Still isn’t remotely mawkish. Rather it is poignant, moving and often humorous with a dry sense of humour in some of the things the dead need to say. All that said, Listening Still delves into our fears, our loves, our ambitions and our self-deceptions making it a story any reader can relate to regardless of the unusual premise.
Wonderful humane themes weave through the story. Responsibility and ambition, first love and lasting relationships, life and death, passion and despair thrum through the narrative so that I was completely spellbound every moment I was reading.
Listening Still is an absolute masterpiece. I found it so affecting that long after I’ve finished reading, thoughts of it still bring a tear to my eye and joy to my heart. I truly loved it.
About Anne Griffin
Anne Griffin is an Irish novelist living in Ireland. Anne was awarded the John McGahern Award for Literature, recognising previous and current works. Amongst others, she has been shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award and the Sunday Business Post Short Story Award.