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on 27 January 2014
I finished this a few days ago and still can't quite make up my mind. On the postive side - it's a good read and you do want to keep turning the pages. But what is it? It's full of caricatures, rather than real characters. It's funny but it's not a black comedy. I think it's problem is that it wants to be taken seriously as a 'moral thriller', as Philip Pullman says on the cover, but it doesn't quite make it. Comparisons to Dickens are completely OTT. Dickens could get away with characters who are almost caricatures of types of people, because he made them real and you believed in them. You can't do that with Meek's cast - engaging and amusing though some of them are. The morality is too simplistic - too stark, too black and white. Real morality is much more complex and real people are just, well more real than this set of collection of rather superficial characters. It would have been better done as black comedy. It almost makes it: Richie - the talent show slimeball; Bec - Miss Goodietwoshoes; Alex - the scientist with a touch of Aspergers; and Val the hypocritical News of the World-style moralistic editor.
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on 20 October 2013
An intriguing book. Became attached to some of the characters and interested in the areas of operation of the characters - the media and scientific research. Impressed with the insider detail. Frustrating at times but witty and funny too. The sexual freedoms of the 70's seemed a bit over-egged at times, but didn't overwhelm the resolution of very human conflicts
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on 27 August 2013
This book thoroughly engrossed me at the start, I found it thrilling! Kept reading couldn't put it down. However, its a major let down I'm afraid. I don't like spoilers so I shan't say why, all I'll say is it starts off fab but I somehow felt that the author got bored in the middle and couldn't be bothered to tie it all up properly. And as for history repeating itself with the baby! (oops, spoiler) absolutely terrible!
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on 1 September 2013
A well narrated and compelling Novel. A story of loyalty, values and personal life plot where no one is left unscathed.
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on 6 May 2014
This is a clever, contemporary & compelling tale, contriving events to challenge moral identity, set amongst the best and worst of human strengths and weaknesses.
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on 18 June 2013
I enjoyed this book a lot, but felt that in places it lost its way. It is always well written, though, with some passages that you have to go back and re-read.
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on 17 January 2013
I bought this book on the basis of a good review in 'The Economist'. I rather lost my way, as characters appeared who to me had no place in the story or in the sequence of the story. Possibly my fault, not being up to reading modern literature, but I couldn't veven finish it.
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on 11 January 2013
This story has a haunting depth. The characters are well developed and the science theme flatters the intelligence. Sad and funny by turns.
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on 7 October 2012
Having read James Meeks other books I was very exited about this one. It did not disappoint. I found the science bits really interesting as it allowed you to enter the obsessive world of the characters. I read it twice - once because I was dying to see what would happen and then to actually savour the writing and content of the book. Highly recommended
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on 20 February 2016
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I suppose minor spoilers ahead for anyone planning on reading this, which is, oh, no-one? Thought so. Good choice, everyone!

Sleazy ex-popstar turned sleazy reality show producer Ritchie Shepherd cheats on his wife with a 15 year old girl (not the first time either) and gets blackmailed by his sister’s jilted lover, newspaper mogul Val Oatman. Ritchie has to give up dirt on his sister Bec or Val will reveal his crime and Ritchie loses it all.

That sort of sounds like a semi-interesting storyline, doesn’t it – gives the impression of a driving plotline? That’s actually just the frame of this bloated 550 page novel. James Meek’s The Heart Broke In mostly follows the interminably meandering courtship of Alex Comrie, former drummer of Ritchie’s band, and Bec, Ritchie’s sister. The two are scientists who improbably become famous and fall in love. If only Alex and Bec weren’t such ordinary, forgettable protagonists you might not feel the frustratingly plodding pace of the narrative so much! Hundreds and hundreds of pages wasted on these wet-paper-bag characters, my word…

What annoyed me the most is how irrelevant the majority of this novel is. Chapters wasted on: Alex and his soon-to-be-ex Maria trying to get pregnant; on Bec and her malaria research around the world; Alex’s dying uncle Harry and his tedious final days; a former IRA scumbag turned poet; all of these parts add up to nothing and go on and on. They’re not interesting nor do they contribute anything to the plot that couldn’t have been done in a paragraph or two in passing.

It’d be good if it felt like Meek was doing something interesting or artful with the material but he’s not. Bec hosts a parasite for a while, foreshadowing her pregnancy later in the book – oh, wonderful, how clever, how… pointless. I think Meek’s trying to say something about morality but I didn’t care about his two-dimensional characters’ choices, I just wanted to see them all blown up with a bazooka.

Meek doesn’t feel like he’s writing anything substantial or about real characters at all. Instead the novel reads like a cheesy contrived soap for pretentious twits who think they’re above Eastenders. This person’s cheating on this person who’s borrowing money and getting into trouble here, who’s sleeping with this person there – is that really it? It is. Very disappointing stuff from a supposedly lofty prize-winning writer.

Then there’s the razor-thin plot that kicked off the novel, revisited some 450-500 pages(!) later and it’s completely nonsensical resolution. Val Oatman, former head of a national gossip rag, lost his mind and got fired, then surreptitiously started up a gossip website called the Moral Foundation. This blog reveals secrets on public figures and apparently it’s got the whole nation’s knickers in a knot. Except… why would a newly started up no-name blog spreading unsubstantiated rumours get so much attention and credibility from everyone? Couldn’t their bulls*** – whether real or not – be easily refuted by anyone they’re accusing? The Moral Foundation is not at all believable and yet the whole novel hinges on this retarded detail.

There’s no story, it’s overlong by several hundred pages, it’s missing a point, a purpose, it’s not at all engaging, and it’s full of dreary, despicable characters. Meek can write competently but his chosen subjects in The Heart Broke In are dealt with in an utterly bloodless, empty and immensely boring style leaving no impression on the reader whatsoever, especially with that terrible ending.
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