The Eavesdroppers by Rosie Chard


Paperback, 288 pages, ISBN: 9781988732442
Published by NeWest Press, 2018

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From the publisher:
When social attitudes researcher Bill Harcourt puts an advertisement in the newspaper for ‘listeners’ to work on an unconventional project, he anticipates that his team of eavesdroppers will discover previously untapped insights into public opinion.

But as five eager listeners begin eavesdropping in the cafes, dentist waiting rooms, public toilets, tube trains and launderettes of London, discreetly noting the details of unguarded conversations, Bill starts to notice subtle changes in their behaviour and realises he has underestimated the compulsive nature of his group. His anxiety is compounded after he receives a series of anonymous letters warning him of the dangers of his experiment.

As the group becomes increasingly intertwined in their subjects’ lives, eavesdropping descends into obsession and Bill has to find a way to rein in his increasingly unruly team before they are beyond help.

Informed by conversations collected over three years, The Eavesdroppers, by award-winning author Rosie Chard, is a dark, yet wryly humorous tale of present-day Londoners, living in a constant state of noise and crowds and eavesdroppers.

Praise for The Eavesdroppers:

“The third novel from Rosie Chard is a potent but entertaining commentary on our modern surveillance society.”— Quill & Quire

“A creepy ambush of a novel, unsettling and profound in its ideas and fears. One feels the weight of history and of the future; one hears a warning.” — Michelle Butler Hallett, author of This Marlowe

“At an address somewhere between Bletchley Park and Franz Kafka’s house, Rosie Chard locates a curious and compelling tale about a group of life’s outsiders who find meaning – and much worse – when they’re tasked with listening in. Part spy-thriller in miniature, part fable for our disconcerting times, The Eavesdroppers is funny and haunting and achingly human.”— Ian Weir, author of Will Starling and The Death and Life of Strother Purcell

About the author:

Rosie Chard

grew up on the edge of London, England. After studying Anthropology and Environmental Biology at university she went on to qualify as a landscape architect and practiced for several years in England, Denmark and Canada. She and her family emigrated to Winnipeg in 2005 where she trained as an English language teacher at the University of Manitoba.

Rosie is now based in Brighton, England where she currently works as a tutor on The Creative Writing Programme Brighton, and also as a freelance editor, writing mentor and English language teacher. Her first novel, Seal Intestine Raincoat, published in 2009 by NeWest Press won the 2010 Trade Fiction Book Award at the Alberta Book Publishing Awards and received an honorable mention at the Sunburst Fiction Awards. She was also shortlisted in 2010 for the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer. Her second novel, The Insistent Garden, published in 2013 by NeWest Press, won the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction at the Manitoba Book Awards. She is currently writing her fourth novel.



Tom Wilson always seemed oblivious to the arrival of other human beings when they were ushered into his office. Jean’s announcements were crisp enough but the boss liked to keep his eyes on his computer screen for longer than was comfortable and visitors were forced to linger in that dead space between the door and the desk until he finally deigned to look up.

“I have another new idea, Tom, ” I said quickly, so as to circumvent any rush attempts at civility. “I think you’ll find it interesting.”

He waved for me to sit down. “Better than the last one I hope.”

“Much better.”

So I began. My warm-up was soothing: praise for Wilson’s sense of judgment followed by a finely timed compliment on his new chair. Then I revealed the full thrust of it. Social research had got out of touch with its roots, I said; it needed something to bring it back into the limelight. “What we need,” I said, aware of a pompous tone rising in my voice, “is an anthropology of ourselves.” Against my better nature I emphasised my final two words with my index fingers hung in the air.

Wilson’s voice seemed to have lost all intonation. “Mass Observation.”

“You’ve heard of it?”

He lowered his chin and looked over his glasses. “William. British social policy in the 1940s was founded on it.”


“But do carry on.”

So I carried on, my voice getting ever more confident, outlining my strategy, breaking down the budget, all the while skipping over the grey areas, the pockets of doubt, until I reached my triumphant conclusion ” I want to hire ordinary people to eavesdrop on the public, just like they did back in the day. We’d be the new Mass Observation. You couldn’t get fresher than that.”

Wilson smiled a limp rag of a smile, arched his fingers into a triangle and leant back in his chair. Time didn’t stand still. It ceased to exist.

“You know what?” he said at last. “I like it. I actually like it. But what you are suggesting is somewhat illegal. Depending on your method of course.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “This will be very low key, I promise. Any eavesdropping will be done strictly under the radar.”


(Credits: Book cover image and publisher’s description have been retrieved from BiblioShare.)

Buy this book from independent bookstores or those who support them:

  • Canada only (select your indie bookshop):

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