I got myself a copy of Nora Ephron’s Heartburn for my birthday, having heard it talked about on various podcasts that I listen to. Each time it had been mentioned how funny the book was, and what a vibrant character Nora had been when she was alive. I had not read any of her material before, but Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, which Nora wrote and directed, are firm favourite family films from my youth.
My copy, published by Virago Press*, has an introduction by Nora Ephron that was added in 2004, and is essentially filled with spoilers about events that will happen in the book, much of which happened in Ephron’s own life. Living in a world that hates spoilers, I thought it was quite a bold approach, however rather than be deterred from reading, it actually served to make me want to read it faster to see where all the aforementioned moments and ‘thinly-disguised’ people featured. It’s a great way of dishing up a juicy scandal and whetting your readers’ appetite.
Seven months into her pregnancy, Rachel, a cookery writer, discovers that her husband 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’ is no consolation. Virago Press
It’s a great book. It reads quickly and the humour is witty and wry. I liked the frenetic edge of the lead Rachel and the nutty eccentricities of plenty of the other characters, particularly her mother, father, ex-husband Charlie and friend Betty. The contrast of living in New York and Washington, mixed with Jewish upbringings and moving in gossip-fuelled social circles of politics and minor celebrity all come together very neatly for quite a short book. For the most part it still felt very modern to me over thirty years after publication, and it was only some of the food recipes dotted throughout that hinted at its age.
I followed up my reading of Heartburn with The Last Interview & Other Conversations with Nora Ephron to find out more about her life and work. What came across time and again in each of the interviews, spanning nearly four decades, was her self-assured forthright character. I’m thankful for how much ground Nora Ephron paved for women working in journalism, film and creative arts. You can also read my review of her collection of essays, I Feel Bad About My Neck.
* My copy is one of the Virago Modern Classics, which have beautiful embossed outer covers in intricate geometric designs by Yehrin Tong that incorporate themes within the book, (note the cutlery and diamond ring here). There are only 14 books that have been produced in this set and they make for a great collection which can be viewed here.