A Heart Bent Out of Shape by Emylia Hall

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A Heart Bent Out of Shape by Emylia Hall

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: Lausanne comes off beautifully in this book about love and loss during a year studying abroad. A little long, but very readable.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: September 2013
Publisher: Headline Review
ISBN: 978-0755390885

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Hadley Dunn is quite a fancy name for a girl like her. She has lived quite a nondescript life up until now, and even her university years look like they’ll be quite uneventful since she’s decided to live at home rather than move away. Then, out of the blue, an opportunity arises, and Hadley finds herself spending a year abroad in Switzerland. Away from the responsibilities of home, and surrounded by exciting new friends, Hadley becomes a much more appealing character. She is especially close to Danish student Kristina who is also there for a year in Lausanne, and the two soon grow close, even if each has secrets they keep to themselves and cannot share with even their closest of friends.

A few months in to their stay, however, something bad happens to Kristina, which will irrevocably change Hadley. As she fights to understand what happened that night, she comes up again and again against brick walls: disinterested police, flatmates who are ready to move on with their lives, close friends who don’t quite understand her compulsion to keep digging. Two odd relationships prevail, one with a professor and one with an elderly writer she meets haphazardly one day. Each has their own way of helping, of guiding, of hypothesizing about what happened, and Hadley is initially grateful for their interest. But as she begins to pick up the pieces of what happened to Kristina, she starts to doubt how well she knows her new friends, and indeed how well she knew the girl herself.

This is a book I very much enjoyed but I did find it a bit long. I was waiting for something to happen (and I suspected what would, from the blurb on the back) and then I was waiting to find out whodunit. I though the same effect could have been achieved in half the time and while I liked the descriptions of Switzerland and of Hadley’s new life there, I felt I got the point quite quickly and didn’t need it repeating.

That’s not to say I failed to enjoy the book. It was very evocative of my own year abroad some eleven (gulp) years ago – I’ve lived in many countries since then, but there’s something about spending a year of university overseas which is just a little bit different from any other jaunt for work or study, and I think this shone through. The author studied in Lausanne and this comes across clearly too – it reads very authentically through the eyes of a young student, exploring a new place for the first time.

I liked the character of Hugo because he was unexpected and because his presence was quite hit and miss – when he wasn’t there, I found myself wondering what he was up to. I warmed less to Hadley’s flatmates because they were quite one dimensional, and I think this was the point – she saw them as less important than Kristina or Joel or the others. While the book was slow to start, it seemed quick to end, and the final revelations with their deliberate false starts seemed to pile on all at once. I had a few chapters left to read on a plane home (from Denmark, incidentally, which helped me feel close to Kristina) and much more happened in those final pages than I was expecting based on the story to date.

Overall, I thought this was a great idea for a story but it didn’t need to be so long, so wordy, so indulgent, even. I’ve taken marks off for that because it was unnecessary and had be vaguely losing interest in places, but I would still recommend a read if you have the time to enjoy it, and won’t end up skimming the middle part looking for some action as I almost did. You need to stick with it because there are some important scenes, especially around Christmas and New Year.

Thanks go to the publishers for supplying this book.

The new release Slow Train to Switzerland: One Tour, Two Trips, 150 Years and a World of Change Apart by Diccon Bewes would suit those fans of the Swiss region who want more than Hadley can offer.

Buy A Heart Bent Out of Shape by Emylia Hall at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Heart Bent Out of Shape by Emylia Hall at Amazon.co.uk

Buy A Heart Bent Out of Shape by Emylia Hall at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Heart Bent Out of Shape by Emylia Hall at Amazon.com.


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