What It Takes to Be Human

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What It Takes to Be Human, the haunting new novel by Orange Prize–shortlisted author Marilyn Bowering, considers the life of Sandy Grey, an idealistic young air cadet who wants nothing more than to enlist in the Second World War. Sandy’s father, a fundamentalist preacher, refuses to grant his son’s request, fearing that the world is living its very last days. When Sandy’s attempts to oppose his father turn violent, the novel takes a dramatic shift in setting into the fragmented world of an asylum for the criminally insane. Bowering pushes her characters to the very fringe of civilization, love and sanity during the darkening days of a distant conflict to expose the acute parallels between their lives and the lives of those being torn apart by war.

"One of Canada’s most eloquent storytellers has given us a compelling and exquisitely crafted tale about hope, love and creativity."—Susan Swan

"Marilyn Bowering has written an astonishing novel, full of hope and courage—a brilliant antidote to cynicism and despair."—Isabel Huggan

"Marilyn Bowering is one of our whistle-blowers. Her new book tells us What It Means to Be Human—something we seem on the brink of forgetting. Classic in form, this white-knuckle book leads us through a contemporary underworld before bringing us up, once again, to the light. Required reading!"—P.K. Page

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About the author

MARILYN BOWERING’s first novel, To All Appearances a Lady, was a New York Times Notable Book. Her second novel, Visible Worlds, was shortlisted for the prestigious Orange Prize, nominated for the Dublin IMPAC Prize, and awarded the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. Visible Worlds was praised by The Independent as “a tour de force… A wonderful piece of storytelling” and by The New York Times Book Review as “a vast, sprawling feast of a book.” Her most recent novel What it Takes to Be Human was praised by The Globe and Mail as “a great novel… [Bowering] does not seek moments to be brilliant: those moments just arrive.” Marilyn Bowering also works as a poet and librettist. Her opera, Marilyn Forever, with the composer Gavin Bryars, has been performed in Canada, the USA, Australia and in Europe. She lives on Vancouver Island.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin
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Published on
Mar 7, 2017
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9780735234338
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / Historical / General
Fiction / Literary
Fiction / Psychological
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Content protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Shira Nayman's riveting and haunting first novel of madness and passion is set in a psychiatric hospital just after World War II.

Two years after the end of World War II, a mysterious figure, Bertram Reiner, appears at Shadowbrook, a private asylum whose elegant hallways, vaulted ceilings, and magnificent grounds suggest a country estate more than a psychiatric hospital. At first, the chief psychiatrist—as genteel as his aristocratic surrounds—considers his charismatic patient to be a classic, though particularly intriguing, case of war neurosis. But as treatment progresses, Dr. Harrison's sense of clarity clouds over, and he is drawn into Bertram's disquieting preoccupations.

Then, late one night, an intruder is sighted on the hospital grounds, the first in a series of uncanny events that appear to the doctor to be strangely linked; clues abound, yet the truth about Bertram seems always to slip away. Meanwhile, Dr. Harrison's own long-buried troubles reemerge with brutal force. As the careful contours of his existence begin to waver, the doctor is plunged into dangerous, compulsive territory.

When Dr. Harrison finds himself spying on his head nurse, Matilda, even following her one midnight through the underground tunnels that join the hospital buildings, he knows there is no turning back. He is desperate to get to the bottom of the intertwining mysteries connecting Bertram, Matilda, and himself, and senses that everything in his life—and theirs—is at stake.

Set against the backdrop of the insanity of war, The Listener explores the havoc historical trauma plays with the psyche, and illuminates the uncertain boundary between sanity and insanity. Shira Nayman's storytelling is mesmerizing. The Listener is a riveting tale of madness, mystery, and passion that excavates the dark corners of the human heart and mind. It is a work of rare depth and power.
JUST OUTSIDE LONDON, behind a high stone wall, lies Lake House, a private asylum for genteel women of a delicate nature. In the winter of 1859, Anna Palmer becomes its newest patient. To Anna’s dismay, her new husband has declared her in need of treatment and brought her to this shabby asylum.

Confused and angry, Anna is determined to prove her sanity, but with her husband and doctors unwilling to listen, her freedom will notbe easily won. As the weeks pass, she finds other allies: a visiting physician who believes the new medium of photography may reveal the state of a patient’s mind; a longtime patient named Talitha Batt, who seems, to Anna’s surprise, to be as sane as she is; and the proprietor’s bookish daughter, who also yearns to escape.

Yet the longer Anna remains at Lake House, the more she realizes that—like the ethereal bridge over the asylum’s lake—nothing and no one is quite as it appears. Not her fellow patients, her husband, her family—not even herself. Locked alone in her room, driven by the treatments of the time into the recesses of her own mind, she may discover the answers and the freedom she seeks . . . or how thin the line between madness and sanity truly is.

Wendy Wallace’s taut, elegantly crafted first novel, The Painted Bridge, i s a s tory o f f amily betrayals and illicit power; it is also a compelling portrait of the startling history of the psychiatric field and the treatment of women— in society and in these institutions. Wallace sets these ideas and her characters on the page beautifully, telling a riveting story that is surprising and deeply moving.
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