Over a half century, Taylor Caldwell published novels that explored the human psyche, ethics, and religion and were entertaining reading to boot. Many of them became bestsellers.
Unfortunately The Listener is not representative of her work. It is not even a novel in the conventional sense of the word. It is a collection of short stories set in a single place and exploring a single theme.
Old John Godfrey built a lovely garden in his home city. The centerpiece of the sanctuary is a classical, two-room building with the words “The Man Who Listens” chiseled over the portal. Visitors can talk as long as they wish and be sure of being heard. All leave at peace, but none ever reveals what happened within.
I won’t reveal what happened within either. Moderately alert readers will figure out the secret by the time the second “soul” enters the listening chamber.
Readers of Caldwell’s real novels will be familiar with the themes running through the tales. And anyone who is alive has experienced at least some of its crises first hand.
The Listener is best reserved for reading in bed, to soothe away the stresses of the day and encourage a peaceful night.The Listener by Taylor Caldwell Doubleday, 1960 332 pages My Grade: C-