The Heart Broke In by James Meek
Published 25 September 2012
Ritchie Shepherd is a middle-aged television producer, threatened by catastrophic gossip: an ill-thought out affair threatens to destroy everything he claims to hold dear. James Meek’s latest novel, The Heart Broke In, steps back from this moment to develop an engrossing account of the coming crisis. Meek’s canvas quickly expands to include a multitude of characters as Ritchie’s unthinking behaviour sparks a wide-ranging series of events.
The novel’s central relationship is between Ritchie and his sister Bec; as he spirals into self-obsessed torment she begins to accrue success in almost every part of her life, whilst remaining unfulfilled. Meek presents a nuanced exploration of the drives and desires of all his characters, delving behind masks of apparent philanthropy and generosity to excavate an all too-easily recognisable drive for self-gain. It is an honest portrayal of the contradictions of Britain’s twenty-first century white middle-class, although the homogeneity of most of the characters may leave some readers a little dissatisfied. However, the lyricism and wry wit with which Meek writes means this is a fine novel, and an excellent representation of how we live now. [Daniel Davies]