Strike Your Heart by Amelie Nothomb (translated by Alison Anderson) – Review by Vicki Camfield

2 min read

The prettiest girl in school with the most popular boyfriend, Marie has always thrived on being the centre of attention and revels in the jealousy and even hatred of others towards her. An unexpected pregnancy turns her world upside down, throwing Marie out of the limelight and making way for her arduous relationship with her first born, Diane.

Jealousy, contempt and distrust form the foundation of Marie’s relationship with her daughter and ultimately strain her relationships with those closest to her. Strike Your Heart dissects these baser human sentiments between parent and child phenomenally, and lays bare the effect this has on Diane’s life as a young girl and an adult and her ability to form healthy relationships.

The writing has an organic flow and a brevity and sharpness that draw the reader wholly into the tightly wound and volatile narrative. The novel spans from Diane’s conception to 35 years old in less than 150 pages, but I feel like I know both Diane as a child and as an adult equally well, and I believe this is a testament to the author’s abilities.

Nothomb’s examination of jealousy and distrust within female relationships is far from predictable, making for a thrilling and heart-wrenching read. Her ability to get into the dark depths of the psychology of her characters with such effortlessness is both unsettling and fascinating, and leaves you feeling chilled to the bone.

Nothomb has succeeded completely in creating fully realised characters with depth and personality, a plot so engrossing you have to remind yourself to blink and themes that have you brooding for weeks after you’ve put the book down, in a novel that can be devoured in just a few hours.

My only gripe is that this is not a much longer book. If I could read 800 more pages of this, I would; I can’t wait to read more Amelie Nothomb translations.

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