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Saturday 2 June 2018

Heartburn, Novel (1983) and Audiobook (2013), written by Nora Ephron, performed by Meryl Streep 9* out of 10

In Heartburn Nora Ephron worked deep hurt and an awful sinking feeling into a hilarious book with many pithy observations and useful cooking recipes. What can be more compelling than reading this book? Listening to the audiobook of Meryl Streep performing it as a soliloquy.

In Heartburn Rachel Samstat tells the story of the break-up of her second marriage. Rachel is a food writer and her second husband is a journalist in the Washington of the 1980s. The Washington of the time after the story told in the recent movie The Post, the Washington of the time after the story told in the not so recent movie All the Presidents Men: post Nixon, post-Watergate, post the heroics of the two journalists who unravelled the Nixon White House, Edward Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

But that is not what Heartburn is about. What Heartburn is about, is a woman being left in the lurch by her husband. 7-months pregnant, she is fighting the battle against letting herself become a victim for the rest of her life using the weapons at her disposal: an acute sense of observation honed by a successful career in journalism and a great sense of humour, occasionally self-deprecating, often hilarious, always from the heart. 

What makes Heartburn stand out is that with all the journalism and with all the humour, the deep hurt and that awful sinking feeling of “how do I ever get out of this one without going into a never-ending spiral of bitterness and decline” is palpably there behind the truly funny and hugely entertaining telling of the story. 

So, what can be more compelling than reading this book? Listening to Meryl Streep performing it as a soliloquy. And this enjoyment can be yours, if you get Heartburn performed by Meryl Streep in audiobook form. 

A few words about the genre Audiobook, which and which has enriched my cultural life after I discovered it, about a year ago. I always get the paperback or Kindle version, as well as the audiobook; sometimes I read along while I listen, or perhaps I listen while I read. At other times, I read, then listen (often while pottering about the home, doing my laundry, preparing breakfast), then read again. An audio book performance can be much more than having a book read to you; it can be an art-form in its own right. Heartburn performed by Meryl Streep is a case in point.

Although a novel, Heartburn is quite closely based on true events. In her second marriage Nora Ephron was married to Carl Bernstein (of Woodward and Bernstein / Watergate fame) who had an affair with Margaret Jay the very tall wife of the then British Ambassador to the United States and daughter of the former British Prime Minister James Callaghan. But that, although considered very interesting at the time, is very much by the by as far as what makes this novel and Meryl Streep’s performance a great read and listen.

After writing Heartburn, Nora Ephron went on to write great screenplays of romantic Hollywood comedies, including Heartburn (starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson), When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail. She died much too soon of Leukaemia in 2012. The 2017 film The Post (starring Meryl Streep) was dedicated to her memory. 


Audio Book:

Nora Ephron

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