This intricately constructed novel succeeds in generating enormous tension while postponing clarification, so that the reader hurtles through the dark towards a satisfying, overwhelming denouement that reveals the inexorable logic binding Philippe, Marie and Flo: a French bourgeois cursed with the second sight, a disillusioned Dutch student and a self-obsessed art photographer.

Sacha Bronwasser
Original title

After an intriguing prologue, the author takes us to Paris in the late eighties where Philippe, a happily married French bourgeois, is suffering from a recurrence of the prophetic visions that have afflicted him since childhood. As the city reels from a spate of terrorist attacks, Philippe turns into a neurotic stalker, increasingly focussed on Eloise, the family’s new au pair. This all-consuming obsession resembles nothing so much as complete sexual infatuation and threatens to destroy his family.

The next section reveals the aftermath as the novel’s narrator, Marie, a former art student, arrives three years later as Eloise’s most recent successor. Gradually Marie comes to understand the processes that led to the dysfunctional family she has encountered. At the same time she starts to heal, recovering from the damage she suffered at the hands of her ruthlessly manipulative mentor, Flo, and developing the love of French that will become a key factor in her adult life.

In the final section, set in 2015, when Paris again suffers a major and even more catastrophic terrorist attack, the issues raised in the prologue are resolved and we learn not just how the three main characters are bound together, but also the immaculate logic behind the novel’s construction.

Within this suspenseful, gripping story, Listen provides fascinating portraits of the complacent world of the French upper middle class, the life of an au pair and the machinations of modern art. At the same time, the book is an informed, insightful depiction of Paris that rises far above the usual clichés. Bronwasser’s novel is a literary statement, a calling card for the future and, most importantly, an irresistible read.

‘There is something bitter in this novel, sorrow about lost opportunities, thwarted ambitions, desire, but at the same time the writer refuses to surrender to it. This contrast between bitterness and resistance always produces compelling literature […] After finishing the book, I sat quietly for a while and stared into space. Shaken and moved.’

De Groene Amsterdammer

‘Bronwasser employs a logical narrative structure, one line flowing naturally into the other. Rare, a book that’s such a ‘good read’ but still provides enough food for thought.’

de Volkskrant
Sacha Bronwasser
Sacha Bronwasser (b. 1968) is an art historian, presenter and curator, and former art critic. Although her first novel, 'Niets is gelogen' (All True, 2019), was generally well received, it is only now, on the publication of her second, that she has broken through to a wider readership. 'Luister' (Listen) appeared in February 2023 and has already been reprinted twelve times. Critically acclaimed at home in the Netherlands, English, German and Norwegian translations are in production.
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