Author of When All is Said and winner of Newcomer of The Year Irish Book Awards 2019 Anne Griffin has written her second novel Listening Still. What an amazing second novel it is too. I adored this story from beginning to end.
I was delighted to be invited along onto the blogtour for this book, thank you to Kate of Hodder Books for the invite. Here’s my review to bring this fantastic tour to a close today.
About the book
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.
What I thought
I read When All is Said back in 2018 and enjoyed it very much, so was excited to see Anne Griffin had a new book out. For me this book outstripped all expectations, I thought it was a beautifully written heartwarming story, which I found in some ways shared similarities with When All is Said. Perhaps a younger, modern-day version of Maurice Hannigan is written in the form of Jeanie Masterson, a young woman who works in her family owned undertakers business.
Like her last book, this story is set in Ireland in the present time. The reader follows Jeanie’s life both now and goes back to her school days and teenage years as she grows up within the family business. Jeanie shares the ability to hear the dead, along with her Father. For a brief period when they are preparing the departed for their funeral, the deceased will speak to either Jeanie or her Father and pass on a message for their loved ones who they’ve left behind, though there are times when what they’ve had to say might not necessarily be what their closest relatives would like to hear.
It’s a small, tight knit community where Jeanie lives, where everyone knows each others business. Everyone knows the Mastersons can speak to the dead. School life was difficult for Jeanie where she faced much ostracism from her peers because of her family traits. But amongst the animosity Jeanie becomes life long friends with ‘Peanut’ who always sticks up for Jeanie and is there for her through thick and thin long into adulthood.
It’s a story of loyalties – both family and romantic loyalties. Of looking back and wondering what if’s and is this the life that Jeanie truly wants for herself. There are many revelations within the story both from the dead and from Jeanie’s family which are very touching. I’ve shed a tear or two on more than one occasion reading this.
I loved the ending, in fact I just loved the whole book. From Jeanie’s family members to her romantic interests, all the characters have a story of their own to relate, for whom you feel both compassion and often a great sense of sadness.
Anne Griffin weaves a deep and compelling story, telling a wonderfully poignant family tale. I highly recommend this book which is worthy of much more than 5 stars.
♥ Happy Reading ♥
The book was published on 29th April and is available in hardback from all booksellers including signed copies from Waterstones and in e-book with an audio version too, read by Nicola Coughlan of Bridgerton fame.
Thank you to Sceptre Books for an advance review copy of the book via Netgalley.