About the Book: Listening Still

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.

Anne Griffin Anne Griffin

About the Author: Anne Griffin

Anne Griffin was born in Dublin, Ireland. She began writing in 2013, and earned an MA in Creative Writing. She was shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award. When All Is Said, Anne’s debut novel published in 2019, was the Novel Idea 2020 selection, and received the Newcomer of the Year Award at the Irish Book Awards has been translated into twenty languages. Her second novel, Listening Still, was published in April 2021, and her third novel, The Island of Longing, will be published in 2023.

Listening Still- Discussion Questions


An Interview with Anne Griffin

It took me quite a while. I always loved storytelling, both oral and written, from a young age. For many years in my 20s I worked as a bookseller. Following that I worked in the charity sector. When I hit my 40s, however, I felt I had lost my way, and on the advice of a friend, I started to write, mainly just as a hobby. I was 44 and it felt as if I had unleashed something that was always there calling to me but I simply hadn’t been listening well enough. At 46, I began to study for a Masters in creative writing, and there I worked on a draft of my debut novel When All Is Said. Nine months after qualifying and 36 rejections later, I found a publisher.

I am well aware that my books can be emotional reads, often sad, so it might surprise people to know I love writing scenes with a bit of humour. In Listening StillI found those moments between Jeanie and Arthur, the postman and part-time funeral director, especially when he was predicting who in the town might die that weekend. Sometimes I found it in Jeanie’s conversations with her Aunt Harry or her brother Mikey. I enjoyed allowing the main character to interact with these quirky secondary characters to bring a bit of lightness to a book that is set in a funeral home and obviously dealing with death, not to mention a troubled marriage. I think Richard Russo is fantastic at doing this in his novels, balancing the light and shade of serious issues by allowing laughter in.

I hope they get a sense of a small town community in Ireland. I know I love to feel this when I read great American writers like Anne Tyler or the superb Canadian writer Mary Lawson. Deeper down, of course, I hope they have empathised with Jeanie’s struggle to really understand herself and what it is she wants from life. I hope, therefore, people will take away that it is important to find a language that allows you be truthful with those you are closest to. Honesty is something we need to strive toward. It’s about finding your voice, and being respectful to yourself and the listener.

If storytelling is not innately in you, then, sure, you can do it anyway, you can train to be a writer and maybe you will be successful, but really, do you want to spend your life doing something you love or something you abide? When I get downhearted about my job, because I do—how could you not bearing your soul to the world—I ask myself the question that a writer friend of mine always poses when confronted with a troubled novelist: “What would you do instead?” And my answer is always “nothing,” there is nothing I feel I was born to do more. For me personally, writing is therefore nature. For others it may be nurture. But that is the beauty of this creative world, we writers are all completely different. Perhaps the truth is actually somewhere in between.


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