23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 19 June 2007
Rachel Samstat is 30 something year old, Jewish, cookbook writer from The Bronx, who currently resides with the love of her life, Mark in Washington D.C. They have been together for almost 8 years and still act like they just met . The couple have a two year old son and another on the way.All is well
She accidently finds a love letter from her hubby's apparent girlfriend, and discovers they have been together for nearly a year, They have recently bought a townhouse, and he plans on filing for divorce and leaving Rachel for his Mistress as soon as their child is born.
She wants to works things out, but her husband makes himself scarce and refuses to talk about it. So they separate for a while.. and she basically goes on a quest to figure out what to do..She speaks with her best friend/shrink (think Dr.Phil)and other couples who have battled infidelity and survived.
It might like a bit of a downer, but its truly not, for two reasons.
1. Rachel is a chef and sprinkles comfort food recipes throught the book.The frozen Key lime pie was fabulous.
2.Sometimes she takes a break from the drama and just tells funny stories that make her laugh. My favorite one was about her weird,late, lush of mother who made even stranger casseroles, who once faked being dead ,because she wanted more attention from her spouse and children.
Other funny things included "The Jewish Prince Routine", and the chapter devoted to her nuerotic ex, hamster guy .
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 19 September 2012
There's surely never a good time to tell your wife you've fallen in love with another woman, but Mark's timing is particularly poor. Rachel is seven months pregnant with his child and running around after their toddler when she comes across an inscription in a book from Mark's lover and realises what's been going on. Maybe she could have coped if it were just an affair - it wouldn't be the first time Mark had played away from home - but he seems almost relieved to be confronted so he can share with Rachel how much in love he is. To add insult to injury Rachel knows his new woman, Thelma Rice, and her husband.
Ephron's heroine Rachel is 38 years old, a cookery writer and minor local television celebrity, and Mark is her second husband, a syndicated columnist whose witty little articles drawing on funny things that happen to him and his friends and family are featured in 109 newspapers up and down the USA. Mark goes through life stealing the experience of others and making money by writing about it in witty ways. He struck me as a man whose only claim to personality is borrowed from others. Rachel is sure that she'll wake up one morning and he'll be back knocking on the door, saying it's all been a terrible mistake and he wants her back but as the book progresses she's forced to challenge whether it's ever worth taking back a cheating husband.
Being dumped isn't all bad; Rachel's suddenly allowed to fantasise about strangers on the Underground (even ones without a college education, even ones who might turn out to be muggers) and old flames flicker out of the woodwork to stake their claims for her in the post-Mark era. On the other hand, Thelma's husband turns up to blame her for his wife's relationship with Mark and half her friends still keep coming to ask her WHO is Thelma cheating with. There's a clear sense that regardless of what's happened it must be the woman's fault - in this case the woman who's been cheated on.
My copy of 'Heartburn' is the Virago Modern Classics paperback published in 2004, more than two decades after its first release. It comes with a foreword by Ephron herself in which she comes clean and confirms what everyone already knew that whilst the book isn't entirely autobiographical, it's certainly drawing heavily on the collapse of her second marriage. There's nothing particularly novel about a story of marital collapse so why does 'Heartburn' qualify for the 'modern classic' designation? Perhaps because it's just so well written, more likely because it's a very 'real' story, but probably it helps that it's incredibly and irreverently funny about a topic which shouldn't be so. Other reviews I've seen suggest that not everyone gets the joke and many readers don't like the character of Rachel and find something uncomfortable about jilted spouses cracking jokes about their situation. Personally I thought it was laugh out loud funny in places and I can relate to humour as a weapon against distress.
What makes the book significant - and probably got it onto the Virago Modern Classics list - is that it's an empowering book about not putting up with the crap of a loveless marriage just for the sake of the kids, written at a time when that's pretty much what women were expected to do. In 1982 divorce rates were at an all time high in the USA, but still nothing like as high as they are 30 years later. At that time nice girls just didn't talk about divorce or failed relationships - as Ephron said, they were supposed to "curl up and go to Connecticut".
It's hard to imagine that Carl Bernstein (he of Watergate fame) ever lived down Ephron's description of Mark as a man who would "have sex with a Venetian blind" and his lover, Margaret Jay (James Callaghan's daughter), can't have been too happy about her friends and neighbours being told she had herpes and about repeatedly being described as much too tall but I'm willing to bet Ephron felt better for getting things off her chest.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2012
A great read - a light touch, sad and funny: what more could you want? Oh yes, and recipes, sixteen of them, because the narrator is a cookery writer who can't help chucking in the odd recipe at dramatic points in the narrative. Set in Washington and New York and on the shuttle between the two cities, this is the story of how the narrator's husband had an affair with a woman with an extremely long neck and a nose as long as a thumb, while said narrator was seven months pregnant with her second son. Nora Ephron lived through something similar; she cried, then laughed, then took her mother's advice that everything that happens to you is copy and she knew that some day it would make a funny book - which this most certainly is!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 19 August 2010
`Heartburn' is the tale of Rachel Samstat a journalist who has somehow become a name in cookery writing, which is why there are a fair few recipes spread out throughout the book. As we meet her she has not long discovered that her husband Mark has been having an affair with Thelma Rice, whilst Rachel herself is heavily pregnant. What's worse is that this doesn't seem to be a small bout of infidelity (can we really even forgive those?) but a relationship that has been going on for some time and doesn't look like either participant wants to give up. What follows is an incredibly vivid, occasionally incredibly funny and also incredibly emotionally raw, account of a woman coming to terms with her second unfaithful husband. At least this time, Rachel thinks, it isn't with one of her friends like the husband before.
I thought this book was brilliant and very clever. It could easily have become a very bitter tale, and in some parts there is rage and hurt, which simply slagged off men (which it sometimes does, though it also looks at women's faults too) and became a rather torturous read. Instead, whilst very much looking at the emotional side of it all and indeed the practicalities of the situation Ephron adds some humour. Even when the worst things happen to us we do still laugh at the most random of things, there is that saying `if you didn't laugh you'd cry' and Ephron clearly has this intention with this novel. She also introduces other couples and characters into the mix that add to the laughter, yet have their own tragedy such as Rachel's mother's madness, her father's marriages after and so on.
Many people say that `Heartburn' is actually a fictionalised version of Norah Ephron's marriage breakdown and divorce. Not knowing Ephron personally I couldn't comment on that, in her own introduction - which makes great reading afterwards - Norah hints it may be `thinly disguised' fiction. Regardless it's a brilliant book. Because the author has been there and pretty much puts her heart and soul laid bare into the pages it feels real, we have all at some point felt some of these emotions; so we can empathise and have more of an involvement, understanding and reaction to the book.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 3 October 2009
This slim volume has everything going for it- every time I finish reading it I want to start all over again!
Nora Ephron has written and directed lots of films which could probably be classified at Rom Com or Chick Flicks: Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry met Sally, You've got mail, and more recently Julie and Julia. This book is more bittersweet. It is the story of the end of the marriage. It is funny, touching, beautiful and accurately observed. It is also interspersed with recipes that fit (mostly) into the narrative.
I love the way that Ephron digresses off into anecdotes about past marriages and odd friends. It is like having a conversation with a friend that you haven't seen in years.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 October 2012
I read this with somehow high expectations, and it didn't live up to it.
It's a nice book, the story is interesting and it's presented in a comedic way which makes it more endearing... nonetheless I though some of the characters were quite shallow.
There are some great anecdotes in the book, but they don't gel together in a particularly compelling story.
I would recommend, but don't expect too much
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 August 2014
I picked up this book not really knowing what to expect. This was a bookgroup choice so a little out of my comfort zone. It started well, I enjoyed the light hearted humour and settled back to enjoy the book. However after about 60 pages or so this book started to go downhill.
So what went wrong? This is, at the very basic level, the story of the author's marriage break up. She discovers his affair, she leaves, she goes back, she leaves again after throwing pie in his face (I liked that touch). The rest of the book was a rambling collection of stories about a lot of high society people which contained the odd glimmer of amusement. The author rambles backwards and forwards throughout her two marriages and the past and present marriages of her ex-husband, her Father, her best friends, her producer, her therapist - anyone she came into contact with really. After the first few anecdotes it started to become really quite tedious.
Dispersed throughout this book are recipes which have relevence to the author. This seems to be quite a popular thing to do in books at the moment. Unfortunately these recipes are lost within the text rather than being laid out on a separate page making them almost impossible to use should you wish to.
I think the biggest problem I had with this book is the attitude towards marriage within the society represented. It seemed perfectly common and accepted for affairs to occur. It was almost a game to guess who was sleeping with whom. Call me old fashioned but this didn't sit comfortably with me. Strange, I can quite happily read books about mass murderers but struggle with books that seem to accept or even promote infidelity.
I enjoyed bits of this book but the overall concept and story just didn't do it for me. Would I read another book by this author - maybe if highly recommended by someone I knew.
41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on 6 September 2000
This was made into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. The book's much better. It's a wonderfully perceptive, witty, semi-autobiographical portrait of a marriage falling apart. The central character is a cookery writer, and the chapters begin with a real life recipe, that sets the pace of the chapter that follows. It's funny and brilliant, and you wonder how she could go on to write such duff films as Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail. But even if you are a big enough drip to like those movies, you'll still love this.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
After her second marriage (to Carl Bernstein, one of the two reporters who unearthed Watergate) ended, Nora Ephron got her revenge by penning this short and thinly disguised account of their break up, turning herself into a food writer, Carl into a narcissistic journalist and the very tall woman that he had an affair with into a different very tall woman. She even gives him a fictional name that's quite similar to the name of the real Deep Throat who's identity he guarded so preciously.
Like Dorothy Parker, Ephron had a delightful way with words and she wan't afraid to take you on all sorts of diversions if there's a punchline at the end of them. As the story of a break-up, this doesn't account to a lot: husband has an affair, pregnant wife moves out, wife gives him another chance, realises he's a hopeless jerk and leaves him for good. Sorry if that's a spoiler, but it's all pretty laid out from the outset.
What makes this book worth reading are the witty one liners and entertaining stories. I get the feeling that there wouldn't be anywhere more fun to be than hanging out with Nora Ephron listening to her tell stories for an afternoon. Given that this is (sadly) no longer possible, this book is the next best thing.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 April 2014
No-one knows how to hurt you most than the people you love best. I may not have been 7 months pregnant when my husband fell in love with someone else, but I was 52, he was 50, and "she" was 33, slim, blonde,- you know, your basic nightmare ...
But humour can be found in the darkest places; in another country and 30 years later I was experiencing the same emotions, finding myself in situations that would baffle, terrify and equally (eventually) amuse me. This is a lovely book, I think Nora Ephron would have been a simply lovely lady, and weeks later I still think about the book and smile.