"You don't live the life I have without making some enemies."
Having accepted a strange but intriguing invitation to a French island, psychiatrist Robert Hendricks meets the man who has commissioned him to write a biography. But his subject seems more interested in finding out about Robert's past than he does in revealing his own.
For years, Robert has refused to discuss his past. After the war was over, he refused to go to reunions, believing in some way that denying the killing and the deaths of his friends and fellow soldiers, would mean he wouldn't be defined by the experience. Suddenly, he can't keep the memories from overtaking him. But can he trust his memories and can we believe what other people tell us about theirs?
Moving between the present and the past, between France and Italy, New York and London, this is a powerful story about love and war, memory and desire, the relationship between the body and the mind. Compelling and full of suspense, Where My Heart Used to Beat is a tender, brutal and thoughtful portrait of a man and a century, which asks whether, given the carnage we've witnessed and inflicted over the past 100 years, people can ever be the same?
©2015 Random House Audiobooks (P)2015 Random House Audiobooks
Kildonan by the sea
and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." T. S. Eliot
Psychiatrist Dr Robert Hendricks is a man that can not connect, dissecting every moment every encounter, retreating from the emotional, analyzing, trying to forget but constantly remembering what he lost, until a letter from a Dr Pereira invites him for a visit to Mediterranean island, on a pretext.
This is a book about discoveries and understanding one's damaged self, and trying to make sense of a world that went mad with violence, that is mad with violence, finding solace imperfect solace, remembering that long ago you had love and had been loved.
Beautiful written with moments that are palpable, too palpable, almost painful. the descriptions of the battles are vivid, the passages of young people trying to live through war with a facsimile of what is normal are also made real and bittersweet. A book that needs time to be digested fully, because it is more realist than most and even the romantic moments are not romanticised, but exposed to human frailties.
I really enjoyed this book. I found the characters enthralling and the descriptions of the places were vivid. I loved the way it covered the main character's present and past life. I found his account of WW2 in Italy fascinating and the love story was bitter-sweet. The fact it delved into his work as a psychiatrist was also really interesting too.
Overall, a great read.
Writer and audiobook reviewer.
Dr Robert Hendricks is a damaged man. He is 64 in 1980, the year Faulks' novel is set, his father had died when he was 2 during WW1 and Robert himself had served in the trenches in 1944 Anzio. The core of the story is Robert's visits to the Mediterranean island where the elderly Dr Pereira, a neuroscientist, lives. Pereira had known Robert's father during WW1 and he tells Robert the truth about his father's death. The never-delivered letters written to Robert's mother during the war which are in Pereira's possession and which Robert finally gets to read provide the poignant climax to the novel.
Faulks is very good at cameo scenes - on Robert's first day on the island, a mysterious girl slips off her flimsy dress and dives naked in search of sea urchins which she shares with him when she emerges from the water - but the whole is diffuse with constant changes of decade and place. The protagonist - as it was in Faulks' 2005 novel Human Traces - is not one of the many characters, not even Robert himself, but Faulks' intellect. His interest in the history and practice of neuro science in the treatment of mental illness is his passion, and Robert is his vehicle for communicating it to the listener. The mix of his intellectual pursuits - memory, how we remember, how the past affects the present; analyses of love and madness; the changing philosophy in the treatment of mania and so on - never really gels with the characters as real people, which makes Robert's relationships lack the emotional pull for te listener that they should have.
The intellectual rewards of Faulks' writing are substantial however, increased by the constant tolling in Robert's head of the classic Greek and Roman writers enabling him to make comparisons with the modern violent world. There are also the quotations from poets, T.S.Eliot's later poems musing on layers of reality and time being most favoured, and the detailed discussions between specialists within the story.
There are parts in Robert's past which could well be cut, particularly his many experiences of the treatment of various mentally ill patients, but despite these less successful elements, the whole is definitely worth listening to. It's extremely well read and there is plenty to feed the mind. Faulks get 10 out of 10 for the title - taken from Tennyson's In Memoriam - as it echoes the sense of loss throughout the novel. But he gets zero for his sexual encounter with Anna!
As with the author’s other fine novels, Birdsong and Charlotte Grey, this is a book about love and war, but even more about memories. Set in the 1980s the narrative switches back and forth recounting the experiences of the two main characters. One lived through the horrors of the first World War and the other survived the second. Both are psychiatrists with approaches to treating the mentally ill that were out of step with the accepted dogma prevailing in their time. Psychosis is a thread through the book and is extrapolated into 20th century history scared by devastating wars that shook the world. Inevitably there is a veil of melancholy over the novel as thoughts of lost comrades, friends and lovers are recalled, but more I was moved by the veracity of people's feelings and how they coped with life.
The book is rich in allusions to classical and more modern literature as well as medical and psychiatric theories, all seamlessly incorporated into the narrative without seeming contrived.
It was a pleasure to listen to fine writing performed by a narrator who took care to give authentic voices to a range of characters.
Faulks is a brilliant writer and I'm sure that the print version would be just as enjoyable to read as the audio version was to listen to. I have read a few of Faulks' novels and enjoyed them nearly as much as the audio version.
I enjoyed the whole fascinating story. It was a pleasure to try and guess where the twists and turns of the plot were leading.
It was well read and easy to follow. I would guess that David Sibley enjoyed reading it.
Yes, I found it difficult to stop listening, but life goes on back in the big bad world.
This is one book that I wish I had read, rather than listened to. It's quite a literary novel, which requires concentration, so not great for the daily commute! The narrator has a soft voice, which tended to lull me towards sleep too- so not a brilliant combination!
But it's a good story (apart from Faulk being a bit too clever in the last chapter with a silly political swipe) and well put together. So I recommend it as a book, but not an audiobook. I'll stick to the lighter fare from now on.,
Beautifully written and well told; another emotional tale of a mans journey full circle with his life embracing WW2 , psychiatry and of course human relationships. A great listen.
Yes, with reservations (see below)
There are a number of instances in this novel when Sebastian Faulks seems to include episodes -- on aspects of war (both World Wars), debates in psychiatry, air-travel, a childhood home, and romantic encounters – as much because his fluency with words and careful research allow him to do so as for their relevance to his story. Writing so effectively about psychiatry, Faulks gives the impression that he could easily write a monograph on the subject, as he has written books in the style of Ian Fleming and P. G. Woodhouse. Moreover, in some of the episodes Faulks sets loose potential stories that come to very little. As a consequence, there are a few novels competing with each other within this one novel. The best example is the opening scene when the main character and narrator, Robert Hendricks, pays for sex in New York and then, on returning to London, receives a threatening message on his answer phone that, inexplicably, overrides his answer-message. This creates a disturbing edge and there are other hints that this could be a thriller but they come to nothing. At the other end of the novel, Faulks creates real sadness and regret when Hendricks opens a letter sent to him by his father but undelivered until the son is in his 60s, but the emotion is not commensurate with the character whose life we have followed and, moreover, followed mostly in Hendricks’ own words. That letter is the moment that truly catches one, much as Faulks caught readers throughout "Birdsong".
Even allowing that Sebastian Faulks is not Robert Hendricks, “Where My Heart Used to Beat” displays a curious lack of sustained or deep commitment to the terrors that this novel of the twentieth-century encompasses. Accordingly, there is quite a difference between “Where My Heart Used To Beat” and another novel that tells a first-person story of the “benighted century”, as Faulks/Hendricks puts it, and even shares a titular reference, William Boyd’s “Any Human Heart”. Boyd’s novel catches one throughout, while tracing a life-time of Logan Mountstuart’s experiences, private and public. Conversely, for a novel that explores a character somewhat lacking in human qualities, I would look to Faulk’s “Enderby” because, unlike “Where My Heart Used to Beat”, its tone and control of episodes and genre is very sure.
For all these shortcomings, “Where My Heart Used to Beat” is full of passing and acute insights, as is any Sebastian Faulks’ novel. One example is Hendricks, watching his widowed mother die and observing that so much intimate knowledge of himself in the two or so years before he became self-conscious had died with his mother. Hendricks even understands that for thirty or more years since a wartime love affair ended, he "had lived the wrong life". Yet the facility with language and form that so distinguishes Sebastian Faulks’ work means that when the novel gets to the above point of insight I still felt that the character of Robert Hendricks could have gone in a number of different directions: a novel of exposure and shame; terrifying self-revelation; thriller … Instead, there is an odd late episode in Hendricks’ professional life set in his childhood home. For me, “Where My Heart Used to Beat” should have been more sad or should have been a different novel altogether.
Sebastian Faulks captures beautifully the wounds to the heart and soul which can transmit themselves through the generations forming a deep unconscious connection and a sense of calling. The language and finely crafted descriptions bring the worlds of War and survival in battle and in postwar Britain alive aided also by the reading of David Sibley.
This is an original and profoundly moving novel that moved me emotionally in ways I had not thought possible. I urge everyone to experience this book which is everything a great novel should be. The reading is flawless.
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