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November 6, 2017

Book Notes - Rebecca Wait "The Followers"

The Followers

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Rebecca Wait's novel The Followers is a compelling and suspenseful literary pageturner.

The Guardian wrote of the book:

"Wait's propulsive plotting and the complicity she creates through the power of her writing form a great surging shout of a novel."


In her own words, here is Rebecca Wait's Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Followers:



I have a tendency with music to get fixated on a single track and play it over and over again, before suddenly and finally abandoning it for several years, if not forever (this propensity also extends, damagingly, to other areas of my life). It might not be surprising, then, that the playlist I listened to throughout the two years I was writing The Followers is short.

Perhaps like most people, the main thing I want from music as I write is atmosphere. There are boring days and tired days and dispirited days when it's hard to remember why you started the book in the first place, or what on earth the point is in continuing. On these days in particular, music can be a shortcut to a mood you've lost, a feeling you had when you began that's since wandered off and been absent for some months now.

The Followers is about a religious cult on the bleak, windswept moors of northern England. It's about how we can lose our way, and whether the most ordinary among us has the capacity for terrible violence. As a result, the music I listened to whilst writing it is often similarly bleak. (I should say that this is not particularly in keeping with my general taste in music, which is cheerful, unsophisticated and tends towards cheesy 90s pop.)


1. Sigur Ros – ( )

I never know how to refer to this album – Untitled? The brackets one? – but its haunting sound became the mainstay of my writing. I listened to it constantly, faithfully, both avidly and unconsciously. The piano, the strings, the mournful vocals. It's stunning.


2. Spiritualized – 'Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space'

A dreamy, beautiful song with a desolate undertow: 'All I want in life's a little bit of love / To take the pain away…'. And thus we have the recruitment rationale for cults.


3. Regina Spektor – 'Samson'

I became strangely stuck on this song. Whenever I felt like I'd lost all sense of the heart of the book, I played it again. I felt it encapsulated the relationship between the two main characters, Moses and Judith, who start the novel as children. Moses has grown up in the cult, whereas Judith has grown up on the outside and is brought to the group later by her mother. I think their love for one another is the guiding light of the novel (for me, anyway – but what I produce is so often different to what I intended). It's also got some lovely biblical references, which is nicely in line with the novel.


4. Cat Power – 'The Greatest'

This wistful song, full of loveliness and disappointment, again perfectly summoned up the mood I wanted.


5. Okkervil River – 'Black'

This is a disturbing song about the aftermath of sexual abuse. The abuse of the children in my novel isn't sexual, but it is severe and the damage is long-lasting. The rage of this song fits the rage of Judith as an adult as she faces what happened to her.


Rebecca Wait and The Followers links:

the author's website

Guardian review
Independent review
Kirkus review
New York Times review


also at Largehearted Boy:

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Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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