There's nothing more special than being gifted a book. It shows thought, consideration, and an understanding of the other person. For my birthday earlier this year, one of my best friends gave me Heartburn by Nora Ephron and it really was the perfect gift (thank you, Shauna!). In case you don't know, Nora Ephron was the wonderful writer and filmmaker behind When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless In Seattle, and You've Got Mail - some of my all-time favourite films. Heartburn is Ephron's only novel. I was especially intrigued to read it after hearing Dolly Alderton recommend it on a livestream. After all, anything Dolly likes, I must have.
Heartburn centres around Rachel, a successful cookery writer, who, seven months into her pregnancy, finds out that her husband is in love with another woman. In the introduction to the novel, Ephron faces the comparisons that readers have made between the book and her real life, after she too found out about her husband's affair whilst she was pregnant. Ephron mentions how Heartburn has been described as a "thinly disguised novel" by many yet further points out that this label is only given to women writers - go figure. To me, this novel is a woman's survival through tough times. Pulling on her own life experiences can only have enriched this work to touch readers even more precisely than a work of pure fiction - God knows how anyone could criticise that. This story is not a 'dig' at her ex-husband, it shows a woman's way of coping when life as she knows it is turned on its head. Hearing from the author in the introduction is really special and you can feel her strength and fiesty-ness through her words. I knew immediately that I was going to love this book.
Despite its dramatic and fairly depressing situation, this book is absolutely hilarious. Rachel's narrative voice is chatty, truthful, and extremely witty, with some amazing one-liners on the way that she views life. Rachel copes with her hurt through humour and Ephron captures this perfectly, coupling humour and pain throughout. Ephron's writing is unique and places her characters in bizarre situations that result in laugh-out-loud scenes, such as when Rachel's group therapy is interrupted by an armed robber. It doesn't sound funny, but it is. There's also a fantastic scene that involves a key lime pie - just incredible.
Speaking of food, this plays quite a key role in the novel. As Rachel is a cookery writer, the novel is interlaced with short recipes that correlate to the themes in a scene; the feelings and memories that are evoked with eating certain foods. As a lover of food, I find that I often associate certain meals with memories and feelings, so to read about someone else's experience with this was fascinating and made me extremely hungry...
I also loved how short this novel is, being only 180 pages in length. To me, this shows how good of a writer Ephron is that she can make you care so much about her character, make you feel like you know the minute details of her life and marriage, in such a short amount of time. I love reading shorter books, the lightness of them in my hands makes me eager to read them in one sitting. I'd say this book is the perfect remedy for a reading slump.
Normally at this point I would note what I disliked about a book or what I would have changed. The thing about a five star book is that the answer is: nothing. Except maybe making it longer! I wanted more!
Overall, this novel is like a cup of warm soup; it will comfort you on bad days, warm you when you are cold, and make you forget the world for the short time you spend with it.
Here are a few of my favourite quotes:
"The man is capable of having sex with a Venetian blind." Pg 11
"The truth is that no matter whom you pick, your neuroses mesh together perfectly and horribly; the truth is that no matter whom you pick, he deprives you the way your mother or father did." Pg 83
"Sometimes it felt as if I was living with a cannibal; things barely finishing before mark was chewing away at them, trying to string them out, turn them upside down, blow them up into 850 words for tomorrow's paper." Pg 89-90
"Beginnings are intrinsically happy, in my opinion. What about middles, you may ask. Middles are a problem. Middles are perhaps the major problems of contemporary life." Pg 101
"Since she was only about four feet six inches tall...a hug from her felt like the Heimlich maneuver." Pg 120
"If I tell a story, I control the version. Because if I tell a story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me. Because if i tell the story, it doesn't hurt as much." Pg 178 (that sums it up nicely, i think)
See you next time!