Funkyfacecat’s #CBR5 Review #13: Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Rachel Samstat is a chef who’s been on TV, and a bemused but witty heroine/narrator. She finds out that her husband is having an affair…and she happens to be pregnant. From these simple beginnings emerges a frothy but sharp lemon cheesecake of a novel–light and creamy on top, infused with tartness, and grounded in the buttery biscuits of warmth and insight which evoked in me nods, smiles and sighs of recognition.

In Heartburn, divorce doesn’t lead to self-conscious self-discovery and life-changing experiences Eat Pray Love-style, or graphic sexual odyssey à la Fear of Flying. It’s a quieter, more humorous take on the muddles that people get themselves into, and the ways in which they survive heartbreak and separation. The book is set among the upper-middle-class, if such a designation is appropriate for American literature set in artistic New York and the political circles of Washington, but the emotional resonance of the novel, the pain and confusion of adultery and divorce and the split-second moments of clarity, as well as its commentary on the behaviour of the entitled male, is amusing and perhaps, to some extent, universal.

I’d recommend it if you like Julie and Julia (the book or the film), or Sex and the City (the series, not the films *brrr*). It’s a niche sort of book–less saccharine than some of the films she was involved in–the most acerbic bits and crackle from When Harry Met Sally come closest to the tone. Heartburn gains added interest because it was based on her second marriage and the fallout that followed, and it also contains recipes which look rather tasty.

 

(Note: I read this a while ago, so the details are a bit skimpy – do check out this great review of Heartburn by Loulamac.)

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narfna’s #CBR5 Review #78: Dear Girls Above Me by Charlie McDowell

dear girlsThis was a fun read, but I had some issues with it.

Charlie McDowell* started the popular Dear Girls Above Me Twitter feed on a whim, and he got a book deal out of it. Twitter-to-Book deals always seem sketchy to me, but this one had gotten pretty good reviews, so I picked it up from the library. Like I said, it was fun, but as this is a supposed novelization of the feed, it doesn’t even have the virtue of really being about McDowell’s life, and in parts it seems like he really had to stretch it to make his ‘character’ have a believable arc, so the book wouldn’t entirely read like it was a commercial ploy to exploit these two girls even further.

*He’s the son of Mary Steenburgen and Malcolm McDowell, and to his credit, this isn’t something he highlights in the book, except for the horrifying story of the time he caught one of his friends, er, jerking his sausage, to a blurry sex scene his mother had done in a film before he was even born.

Make no mistake, the things the girls say are ridiculous and hilarious, but shoehorning ‘Charlie’ in there as well just felt forced. The book ends with ‘Charlie’ supposedly having learned something from his interaction with the girls, but I’m sort of at a loss to figure out what that something is. If you just want something funny, you’ll probably love this, though. And the ending was pretty great — I laughed out loud in the coffee shop where I was reading. I won’t spoil it too much, but I will tell you that it involved mice, a broken sewage pipe, and the girls not following directions.

If you’re looking for a quick read you could do worse than this, but don’t go in expecting anything deep.