THE PLOT: Heartburn is a novel about the breakdown of a marriage. Rachel, a New York food writer moves to Washington D.C. to marry Mark. They live together happily, until she discovers Mark is having an affair during her seventh month of pregnancy. Based on author Nora Ephron’s second marriage, the novel depicts Rachel between New York and Washington, trying to cope with the discovery.
OVERALL RATING: I really enjoyed this book so it gets four and a half stars. I added the half because I’m so torn between four and five stars! There are so many wonderful things about this book – the irreverent and witty writing, the neurotic and loveable protagonist, the prosaic and wise quotables. It’s a short, quick and magical little book that makes a big impact.
GOOD BITS: The point of view. It’s told in first person, past tense, which is quite rare for novels. During a recent writing course, I was warned against this because it confuses the sense of time and is less immediate than the present tense. Therefore, it’s thoroughly refreshing to see this work so successfully. It feels like a friend is telling you a story, trying to mask their pain with humour, and really draws you in.
I was also impressed by the economy of Nora’s writing. She knows what she wants to say and how to deliver a punchline. But, she doesn’t waste time introducing each minor character and describing them. Instead, she’s able to launch into a conversation with a range of characters, yet you immediately understand their personality traits by their dialogue.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: Hmmm, there aren’t any. Maybe I should revise that 4.5 into a 5?
OVERALL: Heartburn is a novel I’ll return to over the years for its wonderful quotes and humorous wisdom. Nora’s voice is so strong, the novel felt like it was being read aloud by Barbara Streisand in Funny Girl. As Nora says in her introduction, ‘the World is full of ravenous writers looking for material,’ and this novel will be an inspiration to me for years. Ok, so it’s a 5.