The Twisted Heart

This is the latest book sent to me for review from HarperCollins Canada. It’s by far the most difficult book to review of all those I’ve done.  Not only am I an untrained reviewer, but I’m also not certain what I think about the book.

I chose this title because Rebecca Gowers is an author from Oxford. Because I’ve got a love affair with England going on, I thought I’d really enjoy it. Besides, the jacket copy says that The Twisted Heart is “Sharp, acute, comic and true to life; admirable and enjoyable.” And the marketing bumf says that Gowers is a “stunning wordsmith.”

I don’t know whose life the book is true to, but then again, I grew up in a trailer court and teach at a small university in Nova Scotia. And while I’ve got friends who have gone to or teach at Oxford, I still don’t think the emotions are true to life. I do, however, think that Gowers’ writing is “sharp and accute” but not “stunning.” Overall, the narrative style and dialogue–both internal and external– is engaging. Sometimes, I wondered if the editor missed something, or if this is Gowers’ style. Case in point: “She affected to be unable to decide. The truth was, she didn’t want to do either.” Blach. Not stunning.

Still, I’m going to check out her other two titles. I’m intrigued.

If you like books that contain parallel narratives and quirky characters who tell the story of real life historical events, you’ll like this short novel.

The story follows two Oxford characters–Kit and Joe–as they begin a new relationship. Meeting at a dance class, they go through the difficulties of learning about one another while carrying out individual duties. Joe has to keep his druggie brother alive and Kit has to keep plugging on her PhD dissertation. The storyline about Joe and Humpty, his brother, is supposed to be serious and stark, but it falls flat. On the other hand, Kit’s investigation of a real life prostitute murder and the parallels of Nancy’s murder in Dickens’ ‘Bleak House’ is incredible. The involved details that Gowers provides caused me to have my first nightmare in more than 10 years. 9781554681853

Readers of The Twisted Heart will sometimes love Kit: “As she skimmed down the Bodleian stairs, she recalled the frame of mind she’d been in coming up them and thought, this is a silly existence I’m leading–which was fine so long as she didn’t care.” Sometimes, she’ll make you yell out, “oh, plueeze. Grow up.” During most of the book, you’ll envy her ability to walk down the street to the Bodlien, or to catch a train to London. You’ll also be thankful that her creator, Rebecca Gowers, knows how to bring real research to the masses.

Ok, I guess I’ve worked out what I think about the book. Thank you for helping me out.


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