Where My Heart Used To Beat

By Sebastian Faulks   – a book Review

“Dark House by which once more I stand, here in the long unlovely street, doors, where my heart used to beat so quickly, waiting for a hand….”

‘In Memoriam’. By Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

This book is truly a good read.

Contemporary London, New York; a journey backwards into a century, of which no one could make sense, a century that hosted two world wars; romance, history. Sebastian Faulks has captured it all.

You take a tour in this book, as the author has a style that is easy to follow. He slips through characters, time and location as easy as the principal character, Dr. Hendricks, a psychiatrist, slips through his whiskeys.

Talking of characters, there are not too many in the story and hence the seamless glide through the chapters. Given my time constraints, I still managed to get through the book in four days. I really did not want to put it down.

The plot is made up of many stories which converge into a planned course, only revealed at the end of the book.

I can best compare my reading experience, with a journey through a botanical garden, where a large plant variety, ordinarily never seen in one place at one time, is gathered to draw your attention to themselves and demand you examine them, whether you enjoy doing so or not.

So it is with Faulks, who masterfully draws several characters, most having lived some years apart, onto one big stage, all in the space of a few pages.

Early in the story, the author creates a sense of mystery, through the person of an older man, also a psychiatrist, Dr.Alexander Pereira. He cleverly holds this mystery until nearly the end of the novel, adding to the, ‘don’t you dare put me down’ cry of the book.

Kendrick’s, an unmarried middle aged Doctor, feeling that the lack of any meaningful relationships in his life and the loss of a love that could have fulfilled these desires, sees everything in his life as loss. Many women, including an uninhibited nymph-like young girl with child-like innocence, drift as ghosts through his mind.

On the same stage appears the horror of trench warfare in the early 1900’s; Dr Hendricks’s own living nightmare on the beaches of Italy in the mid forties world war, as a member of the British Army.

Contrasted against these experiences, yet on the same stage, are his sojourns on a tranquil island off the coast of France, post war. Hendricks’s meeting with the strange older research psychiatrist, Dr. Alexander Pereira, who has an agenda that he won’t easily reveal, until the very end.

Finally, on the same stage is a doctor, running his practice in contemporary London, with visits to many other cities, including New York, around the globe.

As a climax to this story, the author, who up to this point has held the reader to ransom on the issue of Dr. Hendricks’s long lost love; reveals the true romance in the story, which comes accompanied by an interesting twist.

The Financial Times declared Sebastian Faulks to be a ‘master’ and I whole heartedly agree.

Treat yourself to this read, when the story ends, you’ll wish there was more.


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