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Where My Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian…

Where My Heart Used to Beat (original 2016; edition 2016)

by Sebastian Faulks (Author)

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2963558,538 (3.31)23
Title:Where My Heart Used to Beat
Authors:Sebastian Faulks (Author)
Info:Vintage Digital (2016), 337 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

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Where My Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks (2016)



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Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Sebastian Faulks presents a book-length confessional of a man alienated from his own feelings in Where My Heart Used to Beat. Robert Hendricks grows up in England, having lost his father in the Great War. His mother refuses to talk about his father, saying it would be “too painful.” Hendricks’s life becomes painful in its turn, too, and through a physician’s knowledge of symptoms, and the self’s absorption with its own history, he tries to get some sort of closure on the pain.

Born during the cataclysm of World War I, Robert grows up with his mother, reads incessantly, has a very active imagination and desire to read, and eventually goes to university. His degree in medicine assures his installation as an officer in a celebrated British Army regiment for World War II. He serves with distinction in Dunkirk, North Africa, and Anzio. It is the fraught and frustrating Italian campaign that seems to upend his mental state. While recuperating from wounds, he falls in love with a comely Italian woman, who proves to be the love of his life.

Hendricks tells these episodes late in his life to an elderly doctor on an island off the south coast of France. These conversations amount to an extended therapy session where Hendricks is encouraged to unburden himself. Talk ranges far and wide. The older doctor admires the book that Hendricks wrote in the 1960s, about mad people, and how they could best be supported, because curing them seems beyond the reach of the medical community.

I read of this Hendricks, of his problems and doubts, but nowhere along the way did he engage my sympathies. He is a fine fellow, stalwart with his comrades at war and caring with his patients as a doctor. But the purported alienation he feels, his inability to find comfort or a happy ending … I missed the part that would have made me feel these in my viscera. That may not have been Mr. Faulks’s point, but in a novel of this kind - a highly personal journey in search of comfort or love or support - it certainly seems like it has to have been.

This novel is quite vivid in its descriptions of the British experience in World War II. Its philosophical asides - spoken by our first-person Dr. Hendricks - about the violent worldwide paroxysms of the 20th Century, and how they become embedded on an individual’s soul, are undoubtedly strong. These supports deserve a clearer and more forceful main plot, I felt.

https://bassoprofundo1.blogspot.com/2018/09/where-my-heart-used-to-beat-by.html ( )
  LukeS | Sep 9, 2018 |
A beautifully written five star novel, interweaving both World Wars of the 20th century with the latter half of that century this is a novel of loss, of change, of grappling with what should have been but never was. The great existentialist questions of life, death, meaning and truth are like threads woven into the writing.
Writing which is evocative of someone searching for meaning, searching for what he dare not search for. And as the novel develops we are taken from place to place, from time to time almost seamlessly as the central character grapples with his past, his present and his very being.
Faulks explores the mindset of trench soldiers alongside a search for justice for those suffering from mental health and in so doing places the story back into the second half of the 20th century, projecting it into our time with themes of loss and love. This novel will continue to resonate in my soul as I place it back on the shelves. ( )
  juliette07 | May 27, 2018 |
Robert Hendricks is a doctor who has specialised in psychiatry, he lives alone and his life is very self-contained. Out of the blue he is contacted by a stranger, Ferreira, who knew Robert's father in the First World War and is looking for a literary executor. Intrigued Robert travels to Ferreira's home on a small mediterranean island and during conversations he explores his life as well as confronting the demons of the past.

Given that memories of lives lived and histories of the two world wars are areas that Faulks has revisited time and time again, on paper this book should have been a cliche. However the writing is stunning, evocative and emotionally driven. The plot line is clever, reflecting on mental illness and whether causes can be attributable solely to the environment or whether there is an inherited link. Robert is an unreliable narrator and through his interactions we fill in the gaps of his memory. As usual the descriptions of war are superb and the characters are deliberately lightly drawn. After completing the book I was asking myself what sanity is and how close to madness any of us are - it is rare that a novel can affect one and that is why this book is so profound. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A psychiatrist in his sixties, lonely and single, defined by the losses of his youth – his father in the great war when he was just a baby, his comrades in arms who didn’t come home from the second war, and the woman he fell in love with when he was a soldier, Dr. Robert Hendricks is invited to be the literary executor of an older doctor, a neurologist, who fought in WWI and has memories of Robert’s father during that time.

Character-driven, though by unlikeable characters, [Where My Heart Used to Beat] examines love, memories, and mental illness, which parts of the novel I found interesting. Recommended to readers who enjoy novels about the psychology of experience, but a bit too much of the unlikeable and dark for me. ( )
  countrylife | Feb 3, 2017 |
I’ve read each of Faulks’s novels as they’ve hit paperback, and I’ve never really worked out why I fastened onto him as a modern author to read. I think he’s much better than McEwan, who managed a couple of stonkers early in his career, but then Faulks’s career has never really matched Birdsong… although I thought the story of Human Traces danced about a pretty interesting idea… And that same idea sort of crops up in Where My Heart Used to Beat. Faulks has… odd ideas about consciousness, and the historical origin of human awareness. In a science fiction writer, they’d be understandable, if not even defensible. But Faulks writes lit fic. In Where My Heart Used to Beat, which is set in the 1980s, a UK doctor is invited to a small French island to meet a famous neurologist at the end of his life and career. The neurologist wants the doctor to be his literary executor, partly because he commanded his father during WWI and holds a secret about that, and partly because the doctor’s career hints that he might be receptible to the neurologist’s Big Idea. The narrative dips in and out of the doctor’s life, mostly focusing on WWII, when he was involved in the Allied invasion of Italy. During that time, he met a young Italian woman and weas convinced she was the love of his life; but she turned out to be married, and he never really recovered. And it’s the concept of love, and Faulks’s previously trotted-out theory on inter-brain communication, that provides the substrate for Where My Heart Used to Beat. It’s a very readable novel – Faulks’s prose is never less than readable – and a more coherent one that his last couple… but it doesn’t have the… weight of Human Traces, and so its central premise dosn’t in the slightest convince. Faulks produces polished middle-brow material, and he does it well, much better than McEwan – but every time I read one of his novels I find myself wondering why I continue to read him. I still don’t know. ( )
  iansales | Jan 22, 2017 |
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Dark house, by which once more I stand
Here in the long unlovely street,
Doors, where my heart was used to beat
So quickly, waiting for a hand. . .
For Veronica
La bellezza si risveglia l'anima di agire . . .
First words
With its free peanuts and anonymity, the airline lounge is somewhere I can usually feel at home; but on this occasion I was in too much of a panic to enjoy its self-importance.
I'd been to Paris a fair amount in the past.....I liked the art galleries, the Metro with its enchanting station names, the islands in the river and the cathedral with its flying buttresses. It was a very handsome city, more so than London; but there was the smugness to deal with, the speech of grunts and shrugs, the barely concealed affection for the departed Nazi occupier; its void August, lay religiosity and fixation with appearances; the way people listened to and admired themselves in the act of talking; the surliness of its waiters, ticket sellers and shop assistants; the boiling little hotel rooms with their floral wallpaper; its willed ignorance of other cultures.
One thing of value my mother's eyes had known was my father's face; and as I gazed into them I half hoped to see - as one can sometimes catch the lights of a window reflected in another's iris - a small image of him smiling back at me. But there was of course no such thing, merely a mother's glaucous good will. Her eyes had seem me as an infant and a child; when she died she would take with her all that I had been in those years before my mind was formed: the wicker basket at the bedside, my head limp against her chest in sleep; the first words, learning how to walk, the bleeding knees, the schoolroom door, the emergence of something like a personality from the falls and tantrums and striving - all those sensations ad events which to her were daily trials but which for me were defining and all-but holy...all these would now be lost in the abyss of time.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0091936837, Hardcover)

On a small island off the south coast of France, Robert Hendricks, an English doctor who has seen the best and the worst the twentieth century had to offer, is forced to confront the events that made up his life. His host, and antagonist, is Alexander Pereira, a man whose time is running out, but who seems to know more about his guest than Hendricks himself does. The search for sanity takes us through the war in Italy in 1944, a passionate love that seems to hold out hope, the great days of idealistic work in the 1960s and finally - unforgettably - back into the trenches of the Western Front. The recurring themes of Sebastian Faulks's fiction are here brought together with a new stylistic brilliance as the novel casts a long, baleful light over the century we have left behind but may never fully understand. Daring, ambitious and in the end profoundly moving, this is Faulks's most remarkable book yet.

(retrieved from Amazon Sat, 22 Aug 2015 12:57:16 -0400)

Robert, a British doctor haunted by World War II memories, agrees to write a biography of a renowned specialist in memory loss who possesses unsettling knowledge of Robert's past.

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