Book Review: The Heart Broke In by James Meek

The Heart Broke In by James MeekThis sounded like a great novel about family and relationships, but in the end, I found it a little disappointing.

The Heart Broke In: What it is about

From the publishers: “From James Meek, the award-winning author of the international bestseller The People’s Act of Love, comes a rich and intricate novel about everything that matters to us now: children, celebrity, secrets and shame, the quest for youth, loyalty and betrayal, falls from grace, acts of terror, and the wonderful, terrible inescapability of family.”

My description: Television celebrity Ritchie Shepherd is middle-aged and unhappy with the course his life is taking. He hopes to film a documentary about the killing of his father by an Irish activist. His sister Bec is a scientist, researching vaccines for malaria. She opposes the idea of the film and wants nothing to do with the killer. She breaks up with her boyfriend Val, a newspaper editor, who subsequently threatens to expose Ritchie as a paedophile unless he provides some dirt on his own sister Bec. Alex is another scientist, a friend of Ritchie. He may have found the key to longer life. He’s also keen to date Bec.

The Heart Broke In: What I thought

The writing was good but the story felt a little scrambled for me. There was too much going on and the storyline about making a movie about the killer of Ritchie and Bec’s Dad could possibly have been left out.

At certain points, I would have been happy to stop reading altogether because the story didn’t grab me enough. At other times, I enjoyed reading about Alex and Bec’s research and their lives as scientists, and about Ritchie and his secret (and how Val tries to expose him).

I especially enjoyed the beginning, when Ritchie has lost the phone that he only uses to call his teenage girlfriend, and that could possibly be in the house, waiting to be found by Ritchie’s wife. Also interesting were the stories about Bec’s malaria research and Alex research into cancer. There was also the family relations that I found quite realistic and the website Val set up to expose famous people.

So there were a lot of interesting ingredients but the resulting story couldn’t quite grab quite enough.

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 416

First published: 2012 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

I got this book: for review from the publishers via Netgalley (ebook)

Genre: contemporary fiction


Have you read this book?

Did you enjoy it?


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

4 Responses to Book Review: The Heart Broke In by James Meek

  1. It seems there is a lot going on in this book, Judith. It sounds rather complicated. Definitely going to skip this one. 🙂

    • Leeswammes says:

      That’s what I thought, Nadine, a bit much. I think it didn’t help that I read it in ebook form. I somehow lose the overview of the book if I read on my ereader.

  2. That’s a shame, my copy is gorgeous looking but I haven’t been tempted to pick it up yet. Though at least your page count suggests that it must have a lot of white space, I was partly put off by the size of it, sat there, staring at me accusingly for ignoring it!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Ellie, I had an ebook and I must say, I often find that harder going than a paper copy. So maybe you’ll like it better than me. It is not a fast read.

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