Sunday 16 November 2014


I was not convinced by the previous Nora Ephron book I read but I picked this one out to give her a second chance. 'Heartburn' tells the story of her second divorce and is similarly something you could skim through in an afternoon and just feel as if you have just had a long chat with a good friend. Although there is a bit of backwards and forwards telling you the story of her relationship with Mark (assuming the names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty alike) it mainly follows her through the process of discovering her husband is having an affair while she is pregnant and her reaction and that of her friends and family. It is kind of nice because it is a story about how you fall in love and why you keep loving someone in spite of how they treat you, how love is as much about wanting to sustain the feeling as it is about the actual feeling because without it you have to mourn all the things you lose with it. In the story the character is a food writer, so some of her recipes are scattered through the book. I like the idea that things you eat can become connected to a time or a place or a person. So the story is basically the anatomy of a relationship, with all the gory bits laid out on display, and it's not a pretty sight.

I read the book over the few days staying at Claire's and finished the final pages on the train. I did not have a pen handy so (sacrilegious!) I folded the corners of a few pages over where things had amused or struck a chord with me. This one particularly:

"I considered staying in bed all day. I considered getting out of bed and into the bathtub and staying there all day. I wondered if even considering these two alternatives constituted a breakdown. (Probably not, I decided.) I contemplated suicide. Every so often I contemplated suicide merely to remind myself of my complete lack of interest in it as a solution to anything at all. There was a time when I worried about this, when I thought galloping neurosis was wildly romantic, when I longed to be the sort of girl who knew the names of wildflowers and fed baby birds with eyedroppers and rescued bugs from swimming pools and wanted from time to time to end it all. Now, in my golden years, I have come to accept the fact that there is not a neurasthenic drop of blood in my body, and I have become very impatient with it in others. Show me a woman who cries when the trees lose their leaves in autumn and I'll show you a real asshole." (p.46)

This, on falling in love and out again:

"And what is all this about picking, anyway? Who's picking? When I was in college, I had a list of what I wanted in a husband. A long list. I wanted a registered Democrat, a bridge player, a linguist with a particular fluency in French, a subscriber to The New Republic, a tennis player. I wanted a man who wasn't bald, who wasn't fat, who wasn't covered with too much body hair. I wanted a man with long legs and a small ass and laugh wrinkles around the eyes. Then I grew up and settled for a low-grade lunatic who kept hamsters. At first I thought he was charming and eccentric. And then I didn't. Then I wanted to kill him. Every time he got on a plane, I would imagine the plane crash, and the funeral, and what I would wear to the funeral and flirting at the funeral, and how soon I could start dating after the funeral." (p.83)

And this one really captures what divorce is all about:

"That's the catch about betrayal, of course: that it feels good, that there's something immensely pleasurable about moving from a complicated relationship which involves minor atrocities on both sides to a nice, neat, simple one where one person has done something so horrible and unforgivable that the other person is immediately absolved of all the low-grade sins of sloth, envy, gluttony, avarice and I forget the other three." (p.144)

I was talking to Claire about just this during our visit; how as the person who leaves a marriage you get to bear all the responsibility and all the guilt and the other person gets of scot-free. I have been left, over the years, feeling that I should have stuck with my gut instinct that had always told me that marriage was a load of crock and avoided it like the plague. And so now I do.

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