The Heart Broke In by James Meek – review

by Thom Conroy / 10 November, 2012
James Meek’s new novel whooshes along like the madcap cycle ride it includes.
The Heart Broke In by James Meek


A prize-winning journalist and novelist, James Meek has been called Britain’s answer to Don DeLillo. His prose, like DeLillo’s, is contagious. The plot plunge of The Heart Broke In is pleasantly steep, opening with Ritchie, an ageing rock star, having an affair with a minor. From England, Meek whisks us off to Papua New Guinea, where Ritchie’s sister Bec is on a quest to cure malaria. Soon thereafter, Bec is back in London breaking up with her fiancé, newspaper mogul Val Oatman. Whereupon she is wooed by Alex, a microbiologist whose scientific star is rising.

The whoosh of the story calls to mind the headlong pace of Alex’s madcap cycleride from Mile End to Paddington Station to catch Bec before she jets off to Tanzania: “The lights were green at Angel and Alex sped across Pentonville Road, racing and dodging buses, jumping lanes, knocking against the sides of cars with his handlebar ends. He crested the hill, saw the long slope down to King’s Cross ahead of him, made a dash for the bus lane, lowered his head, added his pedalling to gravity and built up speed till the slipstream buffeted his face.”

In short, the pages turn painlessly. Sorting the characters from the types requires a bit more labour. Bona fide characters populate Meek’s world – Alex and Bec spring to mind – but they must share it with a dimestore villain, a one-dimensional rocker and a familiar old-school cancer scientist nobly succumbing to the disease he’s spent his life fighting. Tackling evolution, morality and the nature of time, Meek’s novel is engrossing, but it doesn’t quite manage to feel as consequential as it ought to.

THE HEART BROKE IN, by James Meek (Canongate, $36.99).

Thom Conroy is a lecturer at Massey University and writes fiction under the pen name Thomas Gough.
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

Trade Me bans sale of pugs, British and French bulldogs
86110 2018-01-20 10:49:32Z Business

Trade Me bans sale of pugs, British and French bul…

by Sally Blundell

As a result of growing concern over the welfare of pugs, British and French bulldogs, Trade Me has announced they're banning the sale of these breeds.

Read more
Puppy farming: New Zealand's secret dog-breeding shame
86056 2018-01-20 00:00:00Z Currently

Puppy farming: New Zealand's secret dog-breeding s…

by Sally Blundell

NZ has an unregulated puppy-breeding industry where unscrupulous operators can flourish, so why aren’t we following the lead of overseas governments?

Read more
The Crown has lost its way in season two
85715 2018-01-20 00:00:00Z Television

The Crown has lost its way in season two

by Greg Dixon

To read the gushing media reports, you’d have thought The Crown was a winning combination of the Second Coming, unicorns and sliced bread.

Read more
How your name influences who you become
85737 2018-01-20 00:00:00Z Psychology

How your name influences who you become

by Marc Wilson

Researchers say that 'Daisy' is more likely to dress and act in a feminine manner because the name has a stereotype of femininity.

Read more
Jacinda Ardern pregnant: Politicians past and present lend their support
86105 2018-01-19 15:45:44Z Politics

Jacinda Ardern pregnant: Politicians past and pres…

by RNZ

Politicians from at home and abroad are reaching out to offer congratulations to the Prime Minister mum-to-be.

Read more
Jacinda Ardern is going to be a Prime Minister AND a mum
86091 2018-01-19 12:36:44Z Politics

Jacinda Ardern is going to be a Prime Minister AND…

by Katie Parker

New Zealand’s newly minted PM and bizarrely cool and normal lady Jacinda Ardern has announced that she and partner Clarke Gayford are expecting a baby

Read more
Jacinda Ardern announces pregnancy
86074 2018-01-19 11:11:36Z Politics

Jacinda Ardern announces pregnancy

by RNZ

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that she is pregnant, with the baby due in June.

Read more
What the media silly season taught us
85933 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Politics

What the media silly season taught us

by Graham Adams

To the eternal gratitude of media chiefs, each holiday period seems to throw up at least one minor scandal that runs in the absence of anything newsy.

Read more