The other day, I was writing a post when I realised that I hadn’t reviewed any Nora Ephron books. That is something that I have to fix immediately. Like I have said elsewhere, I became a fan of Nora Ephron before I even knew it. I absolutely love the films You’ve Got Mail and When Harry Met Sally, both of which Ephron wrote the screenplay for, plus she was the director of the former. They are, simply put, the most perfect romantic comedies. Once I realised that Ephron had written other stuff, I plunged into her writing starting with her only novel Heartburn. If you’re looking to read something smart and full of dry humour, then this is a book for you.
Heartburn Book Review
Successful cookery writer Rachel is heavily pregnant when she discovers that her husband Mark is cheating on her. It’s no comfort to her that the woman in question has “a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb”. (What a description.) With her marriage in tatters, Rachel’s life has been turned upside down through no fault of her own. She turns to her therapy group – where annoyingly they get robbed at gunpoint and her husband has to pick her up – and cooking to help.
Heartburn is famously autobiographical. Ephron’s own husband Carl Bernstein cheated on her whilst she was pregnant, so, of course, she wrote about it. They do say revenge is a dish best served cold…Talking of food, the book is sprinkled with recipes because food, love and breakups are deliciously entwined. We use it to show our love, to console and to self-soothe. I’ve never been so engrossed in reading about potatoes in my life.
Ultimately, this is a tale of heartbreak. Divorce is usually (and obviously) a heavy topic, but Ephron’s razor-sharp prose whips you through the story. The narrative crackles with fury, and through her acerbic wit and quips, Ephron reclaims the story (her story) of a woman scorned. Rachel is not the victim. Sure, she’s not perfect, and she swings from wanting her husband back to wishing he was dead, but she is certainly not the butt of the joke.
The scenes of New York and Washington are glorious. They are full of gossip, glamour and the sort of dinner parties we all wish we went to. Ephron is known for cutting to the quick with her remarks, but I also think she brings an incredible warmness and humanity to her writing. The observations of people and how they try to just cope with life are so relatable. Sometimes I felt like this could have been a story someone tells you at one of those dinner parties, hiding in the kitchen with a bottle of wine as your slurring friend slags off her ex.
Heartburn Final Thoughts
After I’d finished reading this book, I wanted to buy a copy and press it into the hands of all of my friends. Or anyone going through a tough time, or who has been in love with a liar, or who is just hungry. Ephron handles heartbreak with her trademark humour and tenderness, turning an otherwise tragic time into something hopeful. It’s a short book but there’s plenty to chew over in there. If nothing else, Ephron reminds you that you can choose to be the heroine of your own story.
Buy a copy of Heartburn from Hive and you can support your local indie bookshops too.