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The Book We're Talking About: 'The Heart Broke In' By James Meek

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JAMES MEEK BOOK
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

"The Heart Broke In" by James Meek
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28.00
October 2, 2012

What is it about?
It's an epic story of characters addicted to lies and truth, including Ritchie, an aging rocker and chronic cheater, and Bec, his sister who is on a quest to find a malaria vaccine. Though seemingly opposites, neither can escape the bond of family. Meek's agent has called it a "21st-century Anna Karenina."

Why are we talking about it?
Meek's 2005 novel, "The People’s Act of Love", was a big success and is now being adapted into a film starring Johnny Depp. Also, The Millions flagged "The Heart Broke In" as a notable fall novel in their "Great Second-Half 2012 Book Preview" piece, so we figured it was worth a look.

Who wrote it?
James Meek was a journalist working for The Guardian until 2005. There, he covered topics such as tax avoidance and the Iraq war. This is his fifth novel, and he has also written two short story collections. "The People’s Act of Love" received the Ondaatje Prize and the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award. He grew up in Dundee, Scotland, and now lives in London.

Who will read it?
Fans of British literature, literary fiction and family dramas.

What do the reviewers say?
The Guardian: "It starts with a powerful hook – will a married man be exposed for his affair with a 15-year old girl? – and whizzes along for most of its 550 pages, via plots and subplots encompassing blackmail, murder and sexual infidelity, leaving the reader excited and impressed and, if a little confused, then enjoyably so."

Publishers Weekly: "In this novel, the Dickensian coincidences on which the plot often turns can stretch our present-day credulity, in part because they’ve fallen out of fashion in contemporary literary fiction, in part because the rest of Meek’s novel is so bent on verisimilitude."

Impress your friends:
In the novel, Bec puts herself in harm's way in attempt to create a malaria vaccine. The World Health Organization estimated in 2012 than around 2,000 people died in each day from malaria, most of whom lived in Africa.

Opening line:
"The story doing the rounds at Ritchie Shepard's production company was accurate when it appeared inside the staff's heads, when they hardly sensed it, let alone spoke it."

Notable passage:
"Ritchie left the bar, putting out a hand to keep the wall at a polite distance after it bumped into his shoulder. He locked himself in a toilet stall. A sign above the toilet warned that any guest found using drugs on club premises would be expelled permanently. Ritchie took a tinfoil package out of his pocket, placed it on top of the cistern, and opened it. He took one of the dark brown pieces from the foil, put it on his tongue, sat down on the closed toilet, shut his eyes, and pressed the chocolate against the roof of his mouth."

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