Where My Heart Used To Beat by Sebastian Faulks
Sebastian Faulks is the author of very successful novels such as “Birdsong”, “Charlotte Gray”, and “On Green Dolphin Street” which have been adapted for the screen in film and television. His themes often centre around love, war, loss, and mental illness. He revisits these themes in “Where My Heart Used to Beat”.
The narrator and main character is Dr Robert Hendricks, a psychiatrist. When we first meet him he is getting ready to get out of New York to go back to London. It’s the late seventies. The novel unfolds, layer upon layer, as we find out a little more about Dr Hendricks, his past, and that of his father, a tailor who died in World War 1. Dr Hendricks is an isolated individual who views those he is in relationship with in a cold and clinical light. The novel begins to pick up pace and intrigue when he is drawn to an isolated French island after receiving a letter from a doctor who claims to have known his father, and who also claims to have information about his father. What unfolds draws Dr Hendricks back to face his own wartime past, and a love he lost, which he has blocked from memory and emotion for reasons which slowly reveal themselves.
It is an unusual book, perceptive and reflective, as it deals with the mind in all its complexities and mysteries. It is at times, uncomfortable.
The wartime scenes described are vivid, dealing with actual battles, such as the Battle of Anzio, and reveal Faulks’ genius is retelling these events, and placing his characters within them.
This is a gripping book, sometimes a little uneven, and there are a few scenes described which didn’t seem to add to the narrative.
It would be a great book club book.