Film: Paramount Pictures, directed by Mike Nichols (1986)
"And then the dream breaks into a million tiny pieces. The dream dies. Which leaves you with a choice; you can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool and dream another dream."
Heartburn is Nora Ephron's semi-autobiographical creation about the breakdown of her 2nd marriage after her husband Carl Bernstein (under the fictional name Mark Feldman) cheats on her with Thelma Rice (real-life Margaret Jay), a woman with "a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb" (4). Ephron (under the name Rachel Samstat) is a food writer seven months into her pregnancy when she discovers the affair and now she must decide what she wants.
Although, there are countless books about marriage, infidelity and heartbreak, this novel is far from standard. Off the bat, this novel is hilarious, and while divorce and affairs are not, Ephron found a way to look at her situation and laugh about it. Ephron writes deftly and truthfully about the end of her marriage while inserting subtle jokes, reflections, anecdotes/stories and recipes that help carry the story along. The recipes are especially good because they add some interest to the story and they make Ephron's character, Rachel, a food writer even more believable. (This coming week, my sister and I are going to cook our way through her book. Cheesecake today!) In addition, her reflections and stories were consistently entertaining and relevant. Throughout the book, Ephron reflects on the past and talks about how good things once were, while remaining funny and light-hearted.
Most importantly, Ephron is insightful about her life, her experiences, and the roles of men and women in terms of how to deal with the end of a marriage. And yet, through it all, she doesn't take herself too seriously and she's not afraid to let herself go, which is a quality that not all writers have. Sometimes writers isolate their readers through their over-orchestrated, elaborate, far-fetched, embellished stories. However, as usual, Ephron's writing is simple, funny and very touching and insightful.
Although, Ephron advocated not using the pronoun "I" in one's writing, I often fall into this trap and I'm going to write this entire paragraph anyway (*I'm sorry!): I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. It was actually, really wonderful. At first, I was skeptical about reading this novel because I figured it would be boring, but as it turns out, I had a hard time putting it down. I highly recommend this novel and as the Chicago Tribune puts it: Heartburn is "proof that writing well is the best revenge."
*I miss you Nora Ephron!
**I have not actually seen this movie, and I know it was a flop when it first came out, but I've seen parts of the movie and it looks cute. I must say, however, that the novel is probably better than the film, but the movie does look nice.