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addabook - The Heart
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The Heart
A Novel
Maylis de Kerangal
read on October 24, 2017

I lost track of where I initially saw this recommendation. Unusually, I don't think I ever saw the cover either prior to, or while reading the book. (It was a kindle purchase, and I don't really have memory of whatever image would have been on that buy screen). Due to that, I don't really have much imagery associated with the book, and seeing this cover is a bit of a surprise now. The cover fits though. After having read it, had I had to design a cover, I would have chosen some theme on waves as well. The main character is a surfer, so that's no surprise. But my waves would have been darker. The waves here seem optimistic, great big white caps, perfect for surfing. Too upbeat. The feeling I got reading it was so much more downtrodden. Used and dingy. More like looking at the ocean on a rainy day, when you can't really tell where the rain ocean stops and the clouds start.

This book was about the consequences of death, and impact that it has on others. It was good, though not in any way that will really stick with me. Despite being mired in death, and even in how death can literally bring life, the book gave me very little in terms of how life should be lived.

From a process perspective I only really have two comments. First, that De Kerangal does character intro/exposition better than I've ever seen. In a few short pages at the beginning of each new section she'll introduce a new character, and do it in such eccentric detail that it feels perfectly intimate and genuine. Second, disappointingly, is that her female characters are not good, as they are all based on men. (By based, I mean their foundations are on other male characters - in a sense they are defined by those characters. They define themselves by who they love, who doesn't love them back, etc. Whereas the men all define themselves on their other passions.)

Some quotes:

Sean’s face—those catlike eyes—lights up the screen of her cell phone. Marianne, you called me? Instantly she bursts into tears—the chemistry of pain—incapable of uttering a word while he repeats: Marianne? Marianne? He probably imagines the echo of the sea in the harbor is interfering with the signal, probably hears her spit and snot and tears as so much static while she bites the back of her hand, rendered speechless by the horror she feels at hearing that voice she loves so much, that voice familiar to her as only a voice can be, but become suddenly strange, abominably strange, because it comes from a space-time where Simon’s accident never occurred, an intact world light-years away from this empty café; and now it was dissonant, this voice, it disorchestrated the world, tore apart her brain: it was the voice of life before.


It is time, now, to turn our attention to those who are waiting, scattered throughout the country and sometimes even beyond its borders, people whose names are on lists, classified by organ, to be transplanted, and who, every morning, ask if their position has changed, if they have moved up the ladder, people with no conception of the future, whose lives are restricted, suspended by the condition of one particular organ in their body. People living their lives with the sword of Damocles hanging above their heads. Imagine that.

Author Bio:

Maylis de Kerangal (born 16 June 1967) is a French author. She wrote her first novel in 2000, and from that moment on became a full-time writer. Her celebrated novel, Birth of a Bridge, (Naissance d'un pont, 2010) presents a literary saga of a handful of men and women who are charged with building a bridge somewhere in a mythical California.