Heartburn – Nora Ephron

I have always been rather a fan of Nora Ephron’s films in the past, they aren’t my all time favourites, though Julie & Julia could one day end up there, but I have enjoyed them enough that myself and a colleague where I used to work would have ‘Ephron moments’ you know when life is a little bit bittersweet and you still have to laugh about it. In fact it was this former colleague, and also something I saw on Justine Picardie’s blog some time ago that brought Ephron’s book to my attention, and when I saw it in the library a few weeks ago I had to pick it up.

‘Heartburn’ is the tale of Rachel Samstat a journalist who has somehow become a name in cookery writing, which is why there are a fair few recipes spread out throughout the book. As we meet her she has not long discovered that her husband Mark has been having an affair with Thelma Rice, whilst Rachel herself is heavily pregnant. What’s worse is that this doesn’t seem to be a small bout of infidelity (can we really even forgive those?) but a relationship that has been going on for some time and doesn’t look like either participant wants to give up. What follows is an incredibly vivid, occasionally incredibly funny and also incredibly emotionally raw, account of a woman coming to terms with her second unfaithful husband. At least this time, Rachel thinks, it isn’t with one of her friends like the husband before.

I thought this book was brilliant and very clever. It could easily have become a very bitter tale, and in some parts there is rage and hurt, which simply slagged off men (which it sometimes does, though it also looks at women’s faults too) and became a rather torturous read. Instead, whilst very much looking at the emotional side of it all and indeed the practicalities of the situation Ephron adds some humour. Even when the worst things happen to us we do still laugh at the most random of things, there is that saying ‘if you didn’t laugh you’d cry’ and Ephron clearly has this intention with this novel. She also introduces other couples and characters into the mix that add to the laughter, yet have their own tragedy such as Rachel’s mother’s madness, her father’s marriages after and so on.  

Many people say that ‘Heartburn’ is actually a fictionalised version of Norah Ephron’s marriage breakdown and divorce. Not knowing Ephron personally, sadly, I couldn’t comment on that, however in her own introduction – which makes great reading afterwards – Norah hints it may be ‘thinly disguised’ fiction. Regardless it’s a brilliant book. Because the author has been there and pretty much puts her heart and soul laid bare into the pages it feels real, we have all at some point felt some of these emotions; so we can empathise and have more of an involvement, understanding and reaction to the book.

A book that will: strike a chord regardless if you are male or female (I get the feeling this is aimed very much at women but I think men would like it too) it will also make you laugh out loud. 8.5/10

I can’t currently think of any books that I could pair this with so I haven’t done so. Has anyone else read this and could share some books that other people might like too and of course what you yourself thought of ‘Heartburn’? Has anyone seen the film and what did you think? I have just ordered it on LoveFilm – thrilled to see Meryl Streep plays Rachel!


Filed under Nora Ephron, Review, Virago Books

19 responses to “Heartburn – Nora Ephron

  1. OOh, I liked this immensely – it’s actually a Virago Modern Classic. Claire convinced me to pick it up when we were out bookshopping over a year ago. I think I knew there was a film but hadn’t processed it, and since you mention that it features Meryl Streep I’ve got to see it!

    Another prose partner might be Julie and Julia?

    • The film arrived in the post on Saturday, am going to sit down with it this afternoon between GCP submissions. Am hoping its ace.

      I have heard Julie and Julia is a bit dire as a read. I have been really put off it in hearing what her follow up book was about. Loved the film though.

  2. Yes, I convinced Verity to buy it and yet my own copy that I’ve had for years still remains unread! Hee. I must rectify that soon.

    I’m very interested in the “thinly-veiled” attack on Carl Bernstein (Ephron’s ex) and know that the notoriety has surrounded the book since it was published. I’m intrigued by the personal scandal of someone who brought Watergate to public attention.

    Not having read Heartburn yet I can’t suggest perfect prose partners but if you loved Julie and Julia the film then please order from LoveFilm the delightful indie film, Waitress.

    • I think you would like this one Claire, its emotional and wry in equal amounts.

      Its weird as despite the fact she thinks her husband is a cad, she in some ways is equally at fault, I won’t say anymore than that.

      I watched Waitress last night one Film4, I think it was Film4, how random! Thought it was quite good.

  3. Ephron is the queen of clever and bittersweet, isn’t she? Her movies melt my cold little heart. I suspect I would love this book.

    • You… a cold little heart? Come off it. Its funny your ears must have been buring of late as my Gran was showing my little cousins her post on my blog and they were saying to me how a lady called Sandy wants to be Grans maid. They looked a bit worried Gran might go into slavery!

  4. I’ve read and loved Ephron’s essays (I Feel Bad About My Neck and Wallflower at the Orgy) but haven’t gotten around to Heartburn yet. I’ll look forward to it!

  5. I read this a few months ago and really enjoyed it. Very smart and funny, just like Ephron’s movies. For prose partners I’d suggest some high-quality chick lit: Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding and Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner come immediately to mind. I also like Curzon’s suggestion of Cooking for Mr Latte because of the recipes. (Mr Latte has a recipe for Vanilla Bean cake that is to die for.)

    • Smart and funny is a spot on two word description. I found it interesting how she had the narrator Rachel admit to her flaws, that made it all the more real for me. Cooking for Mr Latte is going to have to be found somehow.

  6. I loved this book so much I made my mother read it, she’s not a fiction reader so it took some doing, I would suggest Florence King’s ‘Confessions of a failed southern lady’, also virago, and I think somewhere between this and ‘the group’ but much better than that makes it sound

  7. Deb

    Rumor has it that when Efron was divorcing her husband Carl Bernstein (of Woodward-Bernstein Watergate expose fame),part of the divorce settlement granted Bernstein the right to approve the actor playing “Mark” in the movie version of “Heartburn.” That’s probably an urban myth, but it gives you an idea of how “thinly disguised” HEARTBURN’s story is. I enjoyed the book; don’t remember much about the movie except feeling that Jack Nicholson was miscast.

  8. Can you believe I’ve never seen a Nora Ephron movie? This sounds like a good story though and I adore that cover!

  9. Pingback: Wallflower at the Orgy – Nora Ephron « Savidge Reads

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