BOOK REVIEW: A blend of war, psychiatry and love lost

“Where My Heart Used to Beat” by Sebastian Faulks, first published in hardback by Hutchinson in 2015, first paperback edition published by Vintage in 2016, 325 pages, available at Asia Books for 350 baht.

THE struggle of living in a world where ordinary people have little influence over national and global events that turn their life upside down is known to almost all except perhaps the pampered few but how difficult it can actually get is fully shown in this new book by Sebastain Faulks.

The title “Where My Heart Used to Beat” refers to Robert Hendricks, a psychiatrist who fought in World War II and while recovering from a bullet wound in Naples falls deeply in love with an Italian woman named Luisa. Their affair ended when she had to return to Genoa to take care of her wounded husband after having hidden the fact that she was married all along.

The depth of his love for her lingers all his life, because while there were other women, he never married.

However she did marry a second time, to an English diplomat, after her war hero husband died but confesses to him when they finally meet after decades that it was he who she loved most all along but unfortunately her ill health meant he could only continue to dream of a life with her.

Although this key theme makes this book sound like a romantic novel, it in fact is the lightness in otherwise a very dark world where an aging neurologist who fought with Hendricks’ father during World War I contacts him to share some memories.

All Hendricks knew was that his dad had died during the First World War but how this actually happened slowly unfolds in this book as does his own experiences during World War II.

To this disturbing tapestry of various tales stretching across most of the twentieth century to the present day the author adds deep thoughts on psychiatry, which some might find a little disturbing.

This is not an easy novel to read, but those who have been through a lot in life, the various ups and downs the roller coaster ride takes us, will find solace in knowing that there are others too, albeit in a fictional world, who are no better even perhaps a lot worse off than us.

Above all the horrors of war really hit home. It’s easy reading history books about this or that battle being lost or won but it is personal suffering which makes us realize how much it takes from each individual who out of patriotism does his best for his country and of course sacrificing his life if need be.

By Nina Suebsukcharoen


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