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.
From the original Atheneum edition jacket, 1964.

"J.M.G. Le Clézio, revelation of the literary year" ran the headline of the Paris Express after last year's prizes had been awarded. The Goncourt jury was locked five to five until its president used his double vote to give the prize to the older candidate. Ten minutes later the Renaudot jury elected the candidate they thought they might lose to the other prize. Most of the literary sections ran their prize news putting the Renaudot first, in order to feature the twenty-three-year-old discovery that was rocking Paris literary circles.

What is The Interrogation? Most likely a myth without distinct delineations. A very solitary young man, Adam Pollo, perhaps the first man, perhaps the last, has a very remarkable interior adventure. He concentrates and he discovers ways of being, ways of seeing. He enters into animals, into a tree.... He has no business, no distractions; he is at the complete disposal of life. All of life, that is, except the society of his own species -- and so the story ends.

"This is the next phase after the 'the new novel,'" wrote the critics. Kafka they said; a direct descendant of Joyce, they said. Beckett they said. Like nothing else, they said. One hundred thousand Frenchmen bought it. They said it was strange and beautiful. Finally the real voice of the young, said the critics. "I like J. D. Salinger," said Mr. Le Clézio, and that was all he said. His remarkable first book will soon be published all over the world and much more will be said.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The darkly suspenseful tale of two families struggling to make the hardest decision of their lives—all over the course of one meal. Now a major motion picture.
 
“Chilling, nasty, smart, shocking, and unputdownable.”—Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl
 
It’s a summer’s evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.
 
Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act—an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children, and as civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.
 
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK
 
“A European Gone Girl . . . A sly psychological thriller.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“Brilliantly engineered . . . The novel is designed to make you think twice, then thrice, not only about what goes on within its pages, but also the next time indignation rises up, pure and fiery, in your own heart.”—Salon
 
“You’ll eat it up, with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”—Entertainment Weekly
 
“[Koch] has created a clever, dark confection . . . absorbing and highly readable.”—New York Times Book Review
 
“Tongue-in-cheek page-turner.”—The Washington Post
 
“[A] deliciously Mr. Ripley-esque drama.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
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