Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Indigestion of Loss, 19 Sep 2012
This review is from: Heartburn (VMC) (Paperback)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in

Review Details


3.7 out of 5 stars (45 customer reviews)
5 star:
4 star:
3 star:
2 star:
1 star:
8.99 6.29
Add to basket Add to wishlist