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Where My Heart Used to Beat


Where My Heart Used to Beat

Sebastian Faulks writes like a modern-day Hemingway. He has the cadence down, the seemingly simplistic language that has such great depth, the endless fascination with World War II, the consequences of war and love, and all those things that have driven the world for thousands of years.

In WHERE MY HEART USED TO BEAT, Faulks considers the long-lasting consequences of pain and suffering pushed so deeply down that they explode in a lifetime of sadness and isolation that Faulks’ protagonist has accepted as his norm. But, as common as some of these themes might seem, Faulks manages the amazing --- he takes this story and infuses a level of humor, romance and drama into it that transcends other such tales. Most readers will wonder if the book could be one of the best of all the lost-romance-of-the-war stories of all time, taking its place amidst Casablanca and THE SUN ALSO RISES). 

"WHERE MY HEART USED TO BEAT brings together a psychological mystery with a war memoir and a love story, and makes it all feel like a totally new genre."

The story begins in London, 1980, a tumultuous time in and of itself (I lived there at that time and was constantly being evacuated from some place for bomb threats at every turn from the IRA). Psychiatrist Robert Hendricks is living with his past pains, suffering from a depression so deep he can barely rise out of bed each morning. He has fans, though, especially one who contacts him suddenly, a Dr. Alexander Perreira, neurologist and World War I vet who asks Robert to come and see him.

Robert makes his way to a secluded island off the coast of France where Perreira has made a home --- and it is here that Robert’s repressed memories and aggressive dislocations with the human race begin to pour out of him. He confronts his fatherless British childhood, the horrors of war and of his own injuries in battle, and the greatest loss of his life: a woman, an Italian woman who he considers to have been the love of his life. It is Perreira’s kindness and expertise along with his ridiculously big heart that help Robert find his way back to himself, to a world where maybe the pain can subside a little and reparations can be made.

WHERE MY HEART USED TO BEAT examines the unexamined life versus the fully confronted one --- and Robert benefits greatly from the efforts he puts forth. The lesson --- from Faulks, of course --- is that dealing with something and moving through it is the greatest way to find a more enjoyable and fulfilling life. For Robert, he creates an atmosphere where these memories and all that pain can be examined without ridicule or judgment. The graciousness of the doctor to the patient leads the patient to rediscover people and feelings he had considered all too long gone --- and that the future is a bright place where he can finally find the love and peace he has been after for decades. 

Readers will enjoy the love story, optimists will appreciate the positive message, and psychiatrists will love the fact that, for once, they are shown to be gentle, loving and caring instead of money-grubbing. WHERE MY HEART USED TO BEAT brings together a psychological mystery with a war memoir and a love story, and makes it all feel like a totally new genre. I wouldn’t dare try to name it, but Faulks has earned considerable literary credit for this construction.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on February 5, 2016

Where My Heart Used to Beat
by Sebastian Faulks