Seven months into her pregnancy, Rachel Samstat discovers that her husband, Mark, is in love with another woman. The fact that the other woman has “a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs” is no consolation. Food sometimes is, though, since Rachel writes cookbooks for a living. And in between trying to win Mark back and loudly wishing him dead, Ephron’s irrepressible heroine offers some of her favourite recipes.
I’ll be honest – I expected a lot more from this book. Ephron’s essay collections seem to be popular all across the blogosphere and I’m a fan of Sleepless in Seattle so I had high hopes. Misplaced high hopes. Heartburn is ok. The writing is witty and sharp but there were some pretty fundamental flaws that stopped me from being able to really enjoy it. Thankfully the blurb mentions one of them so we can get this highly-likely-to-be-slightly-ranty review without me having to bore everybody with spoiler warnings.
If I’d paid more attention before downloading this audiobook, I think I would have noticed that it wouldn’t be for me. I was about to get stuck into glossing a window, however, and in dire need of entertainment so I really just went for whatever the library had handy that wouldn’t be too heavy. But the warning was right there. Rachel Samstat’s husband is cheating on her while she is pregnant (seven months pregnant) and she spends at least part of her time trying to win him back. That’s right – the man declares himself in love with another woman while she is heavily pregnant with their second child and her response isn’t to beat his cheating arse into next week, it’s to see how she can make him love her again. I couldn’t understand Rachel’s motivation and couldn’t really get behind her so it all got a bit frustrating.
As a person borderline obsessed with food and cooking, though, I did like the healthy endorsement of comfort eating and the smattering of recipes. There weren’t actually any recipes that I wanted to make (which is handy because I generally only heard the recipes while driving when noting ingredients is tricky) but I still liked listening to ‘Rachel’ talking about the food that was important to her and the recipes that marked certain key events or times of her life.
I’m not really sure what else to say. It was sort of funny in places but the bunch of wives gossiping about other people and their lives were the worst kind of women. Maybe the whole thing is just dated. Maybe twenty years was enough to stop this book being the sort of romantic comedy that has you weeping into your ice cream on a Sunday afternoon and turn it into one of those ones that you watch when you’re hungover and hate yourself for spending the time on.
The whole experience was saved by the fact that I listened to it rather than reading it. I listened to the Books on Tape audiobook, which is read by Meryl Streep who is perfect. True, she played Rachel in the 1986 film adaptation and so had a bit of an edge at knowing the character but it still made the slightly irritating story actually enjoyable in places. The performance saved the book from being a two star washout.
Overall: Underwhelming. There are some fun moments if you’re a foodie and there were a few titters but otherwise it’s pretty average.
Date finished: 06 January 2015
Source: Borrowed from my library’s audiobook site
First Published: 1st January 1983