The Listeners by Jordan Tanahill

Firstly, a huge thank you to Fourth Estate for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher: Fourth Estate
Publication Date:
Length: 272 pages
Contemporary Fiction | Speculative Fiction

CW: references to sexual assault

One night, while lying in bed next to her husband, Claire Devon suddenly hears a low hum. This innocuous sound, which no one else in the house can hear, has no obvious source or medical cause, but it begins to upset the balance of Claire’s life. When she discovers that one of her students can also hear the hum, the two strike up an unlikely and intimate friendship. Finding themselves increasingly isolated from their families and colleagues, they fall in with a disparate group of people who also perceive the sound. What starts out as a kind of neighbourhood self-help group gradually transforms into something much more extreme, with far-reaching, devastating consequences. 



A few months ago I was drawn by this novel after seeing a poster all over Twitter asking ‘CAN YOU HEAR THE HUM?’ with a number to call. Naturally, my curiosity got the better of me and I called the number, after a slightly disturbing phone call with a voice that I can still hear to this day, a copy of this book landed on my doorstep and I have been itching to read it ever since.

After waiting months to read The Listeners, I devoured the entire book in one day. The first person narration of this novel coupled with the unusual opening lines grabbed me immediately and remained engaging throughout. I really loved the unique voice of our protagonist, Claire, it was just so easy to get caught up in her story and her determination to figure out the truth behind The Hum. I was really impressed with the way that Tannahill made Claire likeable in the beginning when she realises she can hear The Hum and then develops her in such a way that you are still rooting for her even if you’re not entirely convinced that she is doing the right thing. We got to see a snippet of Claire’s life before it was completely taken over by The Hum, like her unconventional relationship with her daughter and her fun and relaxed relationship with her husband, which I felt made the whole narrative so impactful.

I was also really interested in the dynamic between Claire and her 17-year-old student, Kyle. I think Tannahill navigates their unlikely friendship very well; you understand why people react the way they do to them and you question what they’re doing yourself but at the same time, you also understand why they are so drawn to each other as no one else in their lives experiences The Hum. I also liked how Kyle was her daughter’s age as there were times where you could see they were leaning on each other to try and reclaim the families that they are slowly shutting out due to this strange phenomena. 

As the novel progresses we are introduced to a group of other members of the community who also hear The Hum and want to be around others who also know what it is like to experience, however, they’re not all expecting the same thing from the group. I loved seeing the development of this group and their importance in Claire’s life, in the beginning it was easy to feel a little unsettled by the entire notion but gradually, through each meeting, you could see why the group become so absorbed in themselves and their connection through The Hum and yet it becomes increasingly intense that it becomes harder to put the book down. What begins as a community to help each other where no one else understands, starts to devolve into a paranoid group obsessing over conspiracy theories. 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and the look dive into how paranoia can manifest within a person as well as a group. Whilst this novel has a dystopian feel to it, it still feels incredibly insightful into modern day America with political references and a lot of well developed characters who feel incredibly, unsettlingly, believable. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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