The Listeners

About The Listeners

Rethink New Novels Winner 2014

Rethink New Novels Winner 2014

May 1940. Ghosts haunt the woods and fields of Norfolk, as Europe descends into full-blown warfare.

William Abrehart, a strange, nature-loving boy who hasn’t spoken since the mysterious death of his father, struggles to keep the promise he made to look after his withdrawn mother and older sisters. Rachel, the eldest, is waiting for news from France of her soldier sweetheart, while Kate has designs on an airman stationed nearby.

Over the course of a momentous weekend, a complex family web of lies and self-deception will unravel, as the past and present dramatically collide.

Drawing on the Gothic traditions of Walter de la Mare’s poem of the same name, Edward Parnell’s The Listeners is a dark, elegiac tale about grief, love and loss, and how we try to make sense of our existence through stories and memories.

Read an extract from the beginning of the novel on UEA’s website.

Where to buy

The Listeners is published by Rethink Press in hardback (ISBN: 978-1781331132, rrp £15.99), paperback (ISBN: 978-1781331064, rrp £9.99) and on Kindle, and is available now on and It should also be available to order from physical bookshops.

A small number of signed hardback 1st-edition copies are also available direct from me – see here.

Praise for The Listeners

Cover of 'The Listeners'

Cover of ‘The Listeners’

The Listeners is the winner of the 2014 Rethink New Novels Competition, alongside Forget Me Not by Carol McKee Jones.

‘The use of multiple voices and viewpoints in The Listeners is deftly handled; all of the characters have their own individual pitch, and the way their stories interweave is precisely executed. In William Abrehart we have an almost forensic observer of the environment; William is the lynchpin of the narrative – a listener and an acute observer – but an unreliable witness, too, whose own heart-rending secret knowledge is gradually revealed to shocking effect. Edward Parnell has created an intense and powerful story filled with memorable characters. The Listeners is a very fine debut.’
—Trezza Azzopardi, author of The Hiding Place and Winterton Blue

‘Edward Parnell sets his story of family tragedy and domestic conflict among the quiet poetry of the everyday. It’s the war and the Abreharts are trying to make peace with each other and with their past. The Listeners may be a first novel, but it is beautifully crafted and written with immense assurance. The story of Norfolk and of the Norfolk landscape has just found an exciting new voice.’
Mark Cocker, author of Crow Country and Birds Britannica, naturalist and columnist

‘One of the most impressive things about the The Listeners is how distinct, identifiable and memorable those voices are. I read the book several months ago, but even now, I find that that if I open it at random to literally any page, I can still figure out exactly which character it is speaking just from the variations in the prose.’
—Gunnar Jaeck, Metal Reality website (click link to read full review)

‘But the main character of The Listeners is a boy who does not speak, who watches, and who listens—to a landscape teeming with life and death and swimming with submerged memories. In his first novel Edward Parnell reveals a new voice for the wildness of rural Norfolk.’
—Rowan Mantell, Norfolk magazine, June 2015 (click link to read full review)

‘Set in Norfolk during the Second World War and woven around Walter de la Mare’s famous poem of the same name, The Listeners moves through various narrators caught in their own dense, claustrophobic webs. This is a novel particularly rich and subtle in its sense of nature and in its haunting perception of the birds and woods in which a boy’s imagination is invested. But who are the ghosts and who are the living? That is the trail of suspense that leads to the centre of the web.’
George Szirtes, poet and translator, winner of the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry

‘A slow burner. Evocative, atmospheric setting of a lost East Anglian time and place. Some beautiful prose which draws the reader in.’
Amanda Addison, author of Laura’s Handmade Life

‘Set in the landscape of the villages and woods of central Norfolk, this novel of mystery and dark atmospheres, reminiscent in ways of both Walter de la Mare and M. R. James, unfolds forcefully from its multiple narrators and becomes an unforgettable read.’
James Ferron Anderson, author of The River And The Sea

The Listeners is a story about truth and fiction: the lies we deliberately tell, and those that remain hidden even from ourselves. The East Anglian landscape and wildlife are brought vividly to life and become almost an invisible character, creating a dense, gothic atmosphere.’
—Sam Ruddock, Writers’ Centre Norwich