×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Heart Broke In: A Novel
  • Alternative view 1 of The Heart Broke In: A Novel
  • Alternative view 2 of The Heart Broke In: A Novel
     

The Heart Broke In: A Novel

3.6 3
by James Meek
 

See All Formats & Editions

From James Meek, the award-winning author of the international bestseller The People's Act of Love, comes a rich and intricate novel about everything that matters to us now: children, celebrity, secrets and shame, the quest for youth, loyalty and betrayal, falls from grace, acts of terror, and the wonderful, terrible inescapability of family.

Ritchie

Overview

From James Meek, the award-winning author of the international bestseller The People's Act of Love, comes a rich and intricate novel about everything that matters to us now: children, celebrity, secrets and shame, the quest for youth, loyalty and betrayal, falls from grace, acts of terror, and the wonderful, terrible inescapability of family.

Ritchie Shepherd, an aging pop star and a producer of a reality show for teen talent, is starting to trip over his own lies. Maybe filming a documentary about his father, Captain Shepherd, a British soldier executed by Northern Irish guerrillas, will redeem him.

His sister, Bec, is getting closer and closer to a vaccine for malaria. When she's not in Tanzania harvesting field samples, she's peering through a microscope at her own blood to chart the risky treatment she's testing on herself. She's as addicted to honesty as Ritchie is to trickery.

Val Oatman is the editor of a powerful tabloid newspaper. The self-appointed conscience of the nation, scourge of hypocrites and cheats, he believes he will marry beautiful Bec.

Alex Comrie, a gene therapist (and formerly the drummer in Ritchie's band), is battling his mortally ill uncle, a brilliant and domineering scientist, over whether Alex might actually have discovered a cure for aging. Alex, too, believes he will marry Bec.

Colum O'Donabháin has just been released from prison, having served a twenty-five-year sentence for putting a gun to Captain Shepherd's head when he refused to give up an informer. He now writes poetry.

Their stories meet and tangle in this bighearted epic that is also shrewd, starkly funny, and utterly of the moment. The Heart Broke In is fiction with the reverberating resonance of truth.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At the heart of British writer Meek’s seventh work of fiction (after We Are Now Beginning Our Descent) are brother and sister Ritchie, has-been pop-star, and Bec Shepherd, promising malaria researcher, whose father was killed by an IRA man when the Shepherds were just kids. Then there’s Alex Comrie, former drummer in Ritchie’s band, the Lazygods, now a gene therapist and reluctant heir to his brilliant Uncle Harry’s cancer research institute. Val Oatman, editor of a tabloid newspaper, watches all of them until they become famous—or notorious—enough for him to take them down. Both Alex and Val fall in love with the beautiful, intelligent, and honest Bec, who’s begun using herself as a guinea pig for her own research. In this novel, the Dickensian coincidences on which the plot often turns can stretch our present-day credulity, in part because they’ve fallen out of fashion in contemporary literary fiction, in part because the rest of Meek’s novel is so bent on verisimilitude. Still, 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, including, as Alex’s uncle hopes, immortality. Agent: Natasha Fairweather, AP Watt. (Oct. 2)
From the Publisher

“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)

Library Journal
This expansive and articulate British novel focuses largely on the romantic involvement of Rebecca (Bec) Shepherd, a brilliant, overworked biologist attempting to find a cure for malaria, and Alex Comrie, also brilliant, who researches cancer cures and aging. Bec's brother, Ritchie, an inveterate philanderer, hustler, and egomaniac. was once a huge pop star but now produces a British version of American Idol. When Bec breaks up with Val, the well-known editor of a scandal sheet that specializes in digging up dirt on pop stars, he seeks revenge by targeting her and anyone close to her in his paper. The most obvious target is Ritchie, who feverishly tries to cover up his lifestyle. Meanwhile, Bec and Alex have gotten together but face a personal problem that could jeopardize their relationship, compelling Bec to devise a scheme she hopes to keep a secret from Alex. VERDICT Though slightly laborious as the large plot winds down, this is a clever, observant, and absorbing novel as timely as the British tabloid scandals in the news right now. [See Prepub Alert, 4/9/12.]—Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. at Oneonta
Kirkus Reviews
Scientists may have some luck in explaining how our bodies function and malfunction, but who can tell the ways of the heart? Some 25 years ago, Capt. Greg Shepherd was captured and shot by Northern Irish guerrillas. His death has infected his children's hearts like a parasite, leading them into the bleaker frontiers of love. Ritchie Shepherd, an aging rock star, has a good family: a wife, Karin, and two children. Yet Ritchie's moral compass is contaminated, as his affair with a 15-year-old girl testifies. Ritchie's sister, Bec, is a researcher in Tanzania, who finds her blood colonized by a new parasite, which may hold the key to a malaria vaccine, and which she names after her father. Her rather accidental fiance, Val, is a powerful yet emotionally unbalanced newspaper editor. Realizing that she does not love Val, Bec tries to right the moral ship by returning her engagement ring, but she unwittingly sets in motion a course of betrayal. Val offers Ritchie a devil's bargain: He can keep his pedophiliac secret if he exposes something just as damaging about Bec. Struggling to find his way out of the moral swamp, Ritchie delves into the past. He begins a documentary on Colum Donobhan, the man who shot his father, a man who may be harboring more secrets about Capt. Shepherd's death. Grieving that her vaccine for malaria is a failure, Bec returns to London and finds Alex, who has secretly loved her for years. A brilliant cancer researcher, Alex has his own troubles, including his Uncle Harry's cancer diagnosis. He and Harry have made careers out of explaining how cancer cells behave, but neither of them can predict the consequences of following one's heart. Richly drawn characters behaving in unexpected ways make Meek's (We are Now Beginning our Descent, 2008, etc.) latest a gem.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374168711
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
10/02/2012
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.12(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

1

 

 

The story doing the rounds at Ritchie Shepherd’s production company was accurate when it appeared inside the staff’s heads, when they hardly sensed it, let alone spoke it. It was like a faint stink, clear enough to notice, too trivial to mention. All through Teen Makeover’s autumn and spring seasons, when they clustered around Ritchie, asking him questions they already knew the answers to, cadging compliments and begging him to give their enemies a telling-off, they watched him. They saw he wasn’t as funny as before. Was he keeping his jokes for someone else? He moved in a weird way now, they thought. He walked with an awkward bounce, too eager, as if he reckoned something had given him extra energy, or made him younger.

As long as the rumor was unspoken, the hearts of the staff ached. The rumor was this: that after a long peace Ritchie was, once again, cheating on his wife, Karin, this time with an underage girl. They felt sorry for Ritchie’s family, but what if the damage went further, to the men and women on the company payroll? They sensed a personal threat. Scandal spread from the first carrier. Everybody liked Ritchie, but they were confident that he was selfish enough to infect them all. The production company offices were intoxicated by nervousness and suspicion. When twin fourteen-year-old girls showed up one day without an accompanying parent and asked for Ritchie, his PA, Paula, got up too suddenly from behind her desk, caught the trailing edge of a printed e-mail with her thigh, and upended a cup of coffee across her skirt. The chief lighting technician wrote off a fresnel worth two thousand pounds. He dropped it from the bridge when he saw Ritchie smile and touch the elbow of a lanky year ten in a short dress. “She had womanly curves earlier than most” is what the gaffer would have said in his defense, if he hadn’t been afraid to hex them all, and he only yelled “Butterfingers!” while the people down below were jumping clear of chips of lens skittering across the floor. When the script editor saw Ritchie talking to a group of pert-bottomed schoolgirls in leotards she strode over and interrupted him in mid-sentence. She realized, as soon as she did it, that she was making a fool of herself. The girls’ teachers were there. The ache of fear in her heart had made her do it.

The ache could be soothed only by being put into words. The production team needed an utterance to lift the dread from their chests, and when the rumor eventually found its spoken form, it relieved them so completely that they believed it. Much better that Ritchie’s ten-year marriage to Karin should break up and that he should lose custody of his son and daughter over the pretty but older-than-twenty-one new presenter Lina Riggs than that the boss should be doing something illegal and shameful, something that would stain them all with the indelible dye of an unspeakable word. Without anyone noticing the shift, “I wonder if” and “I bet” and “You don’t suppose” changed to “I heard” and “I’ve got a juicy one” and “I know who Ritchie’s shagging.” Believing soothed them all.

Ritchie found that whenever he went near Riggsy a stupid smile appeared on his employees’ faces. He didn’t know how happy he was making them by encouraging them to believe he was betraying his family with a legal adult. They didn’t know that their rumor had become wrong as soon as it was said out loud, and that the original rumor, the ache of fear in their hearts, was true. They didn’t know that Ritchie was seeing a not-quite-sixteen-year-old girl he’d met when she appeared on Teen Makeover the previous season. He saw Nicole once a week. It was his intention to enjoy it for as long as he felt like it, then end it tenderly. Nicole would, he imagined, be moved that he should voluntarily give her up. It would be soon, and nobody would have found out. How could they? The two of them were careful, and London was a wild forest of red brick and roof tiles, where maps only reminded you how little you knew.

 

Copyright © 2012 by James Meek

Meet the Author

James Meek is an award-winning writer whose novels include The People's Act of Love and We Are Now Beginning Our Descent. He lives in London.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Heart Broke In: A Novel 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago