Where my Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks
|Where my Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: Staggeringly beautiful, Where my Heart Used to Beat is a journey through age, war, love, and the human mind. Haunting, moving and yet more proof of Faulks immense talent.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: September 2015|
|External links: Author's website|
In the early 1980’s, on a small island off the South of France, a Doctor named Robert Hendricks confronts his life – memories of wars, work, loves, and losses. As his history is explored and questioned by his host, Hendricks recalls days in Scottish universities, Italian trenches, mental asylums and windswept beaches. Links to the past are uncovered, and the raw wounds they expose take Hendricks on a search for sanity and raises the question – is life comprised of events themselves, or the way in which an individual chooses to remember them?
Faulks is one of our best known authors – a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and recipient of a CBE. 1993’s Birdsong rocketed him to success – and it’s still selling in huge numbers today. Numerous other successes have followed, and the publication of a new Sebastian Faulks novel is quite an event.
It would have been terribly disappointing had Where my Heart Used to Beat not been as good as Faulks previous works, given the following he has built up over the years. Mercifully, that is not an issue – Faulks latest is superb, the sort of book that will stay with the reader for years. Interestingly, it feels like an amalgam of Faulks previous work – the chapters set in war torn Italy are reminiscent of The Girl at the Lion D’or, Birdsong, and Charlotte Gray in the way they immediately evoke the passionate and dangerous times of war. However the Italian setting makes for a very different spin on things, and Hendricks proves a steady, if somewhat distanced narrator – separated from the happenings by both time and age. Talk of asylums and madness bring to mind Faulks Human Traces, although mercifully the 1960’s and 1970’s psychiatry depicted here is far kinder than some of that experienced in the aforementioned novel. In addition, the overarching look at life, age and the human mind reminded me somewhat of 2012’s rather underrated A Possible Life. Other literary references can be glimpsed throughout the novel – whilst Hendricks initial experience on the island of Mr Pereira brings to mind the mystery and confusion of John Fowles The Magus, later revelations about the nature of both Alexander Pereira and another resident of the island reminded me more of Prospero and Miranda from The Tempest.
This is a beautiful novel – whilst I found myself initially struggling to stay interested in the detailed depiction of military tactics, I was soon drawn in - I wasn’t aware of how much I’d been captured by it until the final few chapters, when I was brought to tears on more than one occasion (not something that comes particularly easy to this emotionally constipated reviewer…). Faulks has the rare distinction of being an author of literary works whose popularity has crossed over to the mainstream, and with a work like this it is easy to see why.
Beneath the beautifully depicted landscapes, the vivid images of war and the detailed research on psychiatry, underneath the layered characters, the exquisite turns of phrase and the engaging, rewarding plot, Faulks seems be able to touch a core that very few authors can – studying, detailing and celebrating the human condition and relating that to the reader in a completely unique way.
Huge thanks to the publishers for the copy.
For further reading, I would recommend A Possible Life. Not one of Faulks most well-known novels, but another one that has a strong sense of humanity at its core, and is a hugely rewarding read.
Where my Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks is in the Top Ten Literary Fiction Books of 2015.
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