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The Heart Broke In: A Novel Hardcover – October 2, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

The problem with The Heart Broke In is that it's difficult to mount an exploration of moral uncertainty when the contrasts you're dealing in are so stark. While the novel can't quite support its intellectual agenda, it is a colorful and urgently paced work that does deserve this praise: It would have been impossible to predict. With all his energy and ambition, Meek seems determined to never write the same book twice. —Edmund Gordon


“James Meek's new novel has all the urgent readability of his previous work combined with a wide-ranging vision of social and personal responsibility that's very rare in current fiction. I suppose we could call it a moral thriller. Whatever we call it, I was enormously impressed.” ―Philip Pullman

There is much to enjoy in this ambitious portrait of deeply human characters, grappling with how to live in the modern world, where science is capable of almost anything.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Meek's latest novel is wall-to-wall substance but remains accessible and grounded in earthly humaneness with stunning characterization and boldly realized thematic roots in the universal pursuit of youth versus the questionable finality of death; in how wisdom can sustain, and knowledge in wicked hands destroy; and that as many bonds are forged with treachery as are broken. Meek guides readers through these depths, past intersections of biology and morality, science and art, with beauty and deftness. ” ―Annie Bostrom, Booklist (starred review)

Richly drawn characters behaving in unexpected ways make Meek's latest a gem.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Meek is a novelist of Dostoevskyan intensity and seriousness . . . The Heart Broke In is seldom less than compelling. It also has many terrific individual episodes. Meek is good on slightly messed-up family relations. He has a nice sense of the absurd . . . You have to admire the scope and ambition of this operatic saga.” ―Theo Tait, The Guardian

“This is a big juicy slab of a book, as thrilling and nourishing as a Victorian three-parter . . . A rich book, very much of the moment . . . It is a generous, kind book, and it is kindness, an immutable quality, that is presented here as the antidote to dogmatic moralising. Like Larkin's Arundel tomb, The Heart Broke In proves our almost instinct almost true. What will survive of us is love.” ―Wynn Wheldon, The Spectator

“James Meek is Britain's answer to Don DeLillo . . . The Heart Broke In marks a deepening of the vision of The People's Act of Love . . . Meek writes with taut control. The plot is dreamy, deceptive and allusive, packed with cues and clues . . . Halfway through, the heart breaks in, a real chronology begins, and cool, detached satire gives way to a complex meditation on death and time and the family.” ―Brian Morton, The Independent

“Juicy . . . [A] lively culture clash of a novel. . . A novel shimmering with black humour, which for the sheer verve of the writing deserves a long shelf life.” ―Lucy Beresford, The Daily Telegraph

A readable addition to this justifiably acclaimed writer's oeuvre . . . The biting wit and social satire that characterised We Are Now Beginning Our Descent manifests itself in this novel with an entertaining cast of minor characters . . . Here is a novelist writing fat, complex but readable novels that have something serious to say about the way we live now and the society we live in. Along with Philip Hensher, he is the nearest British fiction has to a John Irving.” ―Louise Doughty, The Observer (London)


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374168717
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374168711
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,352,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By sb-lynn TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Brief summary and review, no spoilers.

This terrific novel by James Meek looks at the lives of some Londoners as we focus on our cultural obsessions with youth, fame, and love. It also shows us the importance of loyalty and honor, and the messiness and complications of family.

We start off the novel with Ritchie Shepherd, who with his wife Karin, were singers in a famous rock group. Ritchie is older (but not so wiser) and now produces a reality show featuring teen talent. Oh, and he's also having a fling with a 15 year old girl who appeared on the show, a deed that is not only illegal and immoral but would most definitely end Ritchie's marriage to Karin as well as his reputation and career.

Ritchie's sister is Bec Shepherd, who at 33 is quite a few years younger than he is. She is everything he is not - she is honorable and honest and works as a scientist trying to eradicate malaria in Tanzania. She's even infected herself with a dangerous parasite in order to further her goals. Bec had recently become engaged to a newspaper editor named Val Oatman, but she really did so because the proposal was unexpected and when she returns the ring to him, he is anything but happy.

Also in love with Bec is Alex Comrie, who used to be the drummer in Ritchie and Karin's band. That drumming was really a lark for him and later on he goes to school and becomes a brilliant gene therapist and wants to come up with a cure for cancer - similar to the aspirations of his beloved brilliant and acclaimed Uncle Harry, who in fact came up with a cure for a certain type of cancer. Uncle Harry's encourages Alex to focus on the element of gene therapy that can reverse aging for reasons that become clear as you read along.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Fairbanks Reader TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Heart Broke In: A Novel is a saga in the good old-fashioned sense of the word. It examines a family, its history, its morality, its amorality, its ambitions, achievements and failures.

Ritchie Shepherd is an aging rock star, once a drummer in a record that was in the top ten. He now is producing teen reality shows but is thinking seriously of doing a documentary about his father who was murdered by Northern Irish Guerrillas. Will this redeem him or will he find a way to mess this up, too.

He has a sister named Bec who is as good and moral as Ritchie is amoral. She is a leading researcher on curing malaria and has gone so far as to inject herself with the untested virus. She spends a lot of time in Tanzania working in her laboratory. She is honest and direct. She is also beautiful but at about 30 years old is still single.

Val is the editor of a sleazy tabloid newspaper and wants to marry Bec. It's not going to happen. Alex Comrie also wants to marry Bec. He is a prestigious scientist who thinks he may have found a cure for aging but it's still in the working stages.

The murderer of Ritchie and Bec's father has recently been released from prison and has begun to write poetry. Will Ritchie try and take revenge?

All of these things come togther in this epic of a novel. It is sad, poignant, funny and current. I had a good time reading it and enjoyed the contents thoroughly. The only thing that I didn't like was the style. Other that that, this is an excellent novel.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Cecil Bothwell VINE VOICE on September 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The first chapter of James Meek's new novel gave me doubts. I really did not want to read a story about yet another "Roman Polanski," with smug self-justification of sex with minors. Boy, was I wrong.

This brilliant novel explores deep and compelling themes of love and loyalty, parenthood and loss. It delves into the science and politics of global health and academic advance. Blackmail and its ramifications are an undercurrent, and the practitioners are not always adult. Along the way the reader traverses the ridgeline between atheism and fundamentalist belief, Christianity and Islam, in vitro fertilization and sterility, in what can only be described, lamely, as a tour de force.

Meek has well-earned the five stars I've accorded the book. I'd like to add a sixth.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Susannah St Clair Foxy Loxy VINE VOICE on October 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I know that this is an award winning author and so far, anyone reviewing this book loved it. Then obviously it must not be my "type" of book. I didn't like the characters and had trouble keeping them straight as to who was doing what to who. I found the structure of the book fragmented. The way the plot was woven together was why I call it fragmented. To my brain anyway. I find it hard to be negative to anyone willing to put the effort into writing a novel but as I had a problem everytime I picked this book up, getting back into it, I will have to be negative. This said, don't be put off by my comments please. If nothing else, read the other reviews as they seem to be much more enthralled with this novel. It just didn't work for ME.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J.Prather TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Oh please. Not another grandiose piece of literary fiction all about self-absorbed people behaving badly. That was my thought after reading the first chapter or so of James Meek's The Heart Broke In. It didn't take long though for me to realize that this book was going to exceed my rather cynical expectations. I quickly found myself riveted to the page by a cast of characters so lovingly and thoroughly drawn that I felt like I knew them. I was charmed by the author's wit and keen observations as he introduces us to a varied collection of people joined by family, friendship and love.

Until the last 100 pages or so, this was not a plot driven book that I felt compelled to keep reading. It didn't keep me up late at night, or make me late for work just so I could find out what happened next. It was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed, marveling at the author's ability to create biting satire one moment and some true heart busting emotion the next. The humor always seemed to take me by surprise and by the end I felt sad that it was over even as I felt satisfaction at an ending that seemed to resolve quite a few issues of love, even the parasitical kind.

The Heart Broke In is a brilliant work of fiction, encompassing all the drama that you usually get from a family saga and adding enough intelligent commentary on love, relationships, celebrity culture, and moral fortitude to leave you thinking about these characters for weeks after you read the final page.
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