Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Heart Broke In by James Meek

James Meek's novels are intricately plotted characterizations of people's lives intertwining and the societies they live in. His last novel, The People's Act Of Love, was about an isolated Christian sect in Siberia. This novel has been moved to the present, and outlines the lives of scientists in London as they attempt to balance work and love.

There is Harry, a famous cancer researcher, now ironically dying of cancer himself. Alex is his nephew, and will inherit the foundation Harry established. He also works with cancer and ways to cure it, but cannot cure his uncle. He is in love with Bec, the sister of his longtime friend, Ritchie. Bec works on malaria, and has found a parasite that provides protection; she has injected herself with the parasite to prove it is harmless. Her brother, Ritchie, is the exception to the scientists. He is a former rock star, now the host of a TV show that discovers and showcases teenage talent. The problem is that Ritchie, although in what he would call a happy marriage, can't resist sampling the teenage talent himself. Then there is Val. The editor of a prestigious newspaper, he was engaged to Bec and bears a grudge against the family since she broke it off.

Meek has a wonderful time showing the myriad ways this cast of characters interacts and relates to each other and their work. Work and science is a major theme. Another theme is love, how we find and sustain it. The desire to have children and the relationship to family is highlighted. The theme of how does one live an honorable life is key.   Meek is at his best here, and The Heart Broke In will make many of the Year's Best lists. It is highly recommended to readers interested in how love, family and the world work.

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