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The Heart Broke In: A Novel Hardcover – October 2, 2012
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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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Along the way, Meek addresses a meta story of the evolution of cells as they coalesce and form alliances, some of the within the human body. Perhaps most of the body is parasites banded together for common good; but the heart, the heart has broken in. What this means to the life of each person forms a formidable metastory to the plot.
As the book progresses and couples form and dissolve, the editor starts a site that threatens each week to disclose a dark secret of a celebrity. The celebrity may head off his disgrace with the trade of the secret of a close family member or loved one. Each person's reaction to the threat and to the exposure reveals to us the role their heart may play, and if it too is a parasite.
This is a well written book. Although we do switch points of view, it is done seamlessly and without awkward forced mechanisms One is absorbed into this small London group and left to ponder the same challenges. This is a book well worth reading and one I hope you enjoy.
I am not one of those people who analyzes books - what does this mean, what does that mean, what is the author trying to say. I just read for entertainment. But it is obvious even to me, that this book is about betrayal. Every one is betrayed and/or betrays someone. But through it all, the human spirit keeps going. They keep on loving. They keep on living.
As I said before, after I finally settled on who was who, I really enjoyed following the characters. Some books are plot driven, this one is definitely character driven. You live their lives, you feel their pain, you share their triumphs.
I didn't highlight many passages (too busy sorting characters out), but here is a prime example of the fine writing:
"None of these was the memory of what it meant: the beginning of a time when being Alex forever became something that would happen unless she stopped it."
Isn't that wonderful? I think that totally captures that moment in a relationship. This is why I read books, to have an author put into words what I have experienced, but can't state so eloquently.
Bec ends a relationship with a Newspaper editor and starts a new relationship with Alex who was the drummer in Ritchie's band. Alex is now a scientist working to cure cancer.
This is a story about the ugly side of modern life and how good people can be destroyed by the Press. Bec's former lover is determined to get revenge and uses information he has about Ritchie's affair with the young girl to get Ritchie to betray his sister. Money and power change the moral code. Both Alex and Bec strive to be good people and are both doing well. Their work is focussed on helping others and not driven by a desire for fame or fortune. They are acknowledged for their achievements and Alex is deemed to be a hero. But in the end it is their goodness that leads to their destruction and the end of life as they know it. It seems they have been built up in order to be trashed.