The Heart Broke In by James Meek was my latest selection from the Willoughby Book Club and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I have been meaning to read The People’s Act of Love, also by Meek, since it came out in 2005 and have just never gotten around to it. So I dove into The Heart Broke In and devoured it. It is an almost perfect novel about modern times.
The story is set in London and circles around Ritchie, an aging rock star, and his extended family. Ritchie’s sister, Bec, is the polar opposite of him – a scientist and a scholar – and yet they both find themselves faced with fame. How each of them reacts to it and how they protect themselves and the people surrounding them is most revealing. Each has their own secret that they do not want to be uncovered.
The strength of The Heart Broke In is in the way it brings together many of the themes that characterize modern life. Throughout Bec is struggling with doing the right thing, whereas Ritchie is striving to get ahead. There is the clash of fame, fortune and colossal success with morality, being true to one’s ideals and loyalty.
Who would like this book? This is a big book dealing with big issues but told in a very readable way. Because of the setting and the broad scope of the novel it reminded me of Capital by John Lanchester. A decidedly more American comparison would be The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, though I hesitate to say that since some people have such a visceral reaction to him.