Cosmo Book Club: A Heart Bent Out of Shape – Emylia Hall.

heartOctober 2013.

So, I was able to take part in Cosmo’s book club this month and – money depending – hope to continue doing so each month. I don’t know why I’ve not done any form of book club before. Moving on. This month’s book is the coming of age story A Heart Bent Out of Shape, which follows Hadley Dunn – a regular student living a regular English life – as she goes abroad for a year to study, seeking some excitement in her life. Her destination? Switzerland.

She immediately absorbs the culture and forms a particularly close friendship with one of her room mates, but on her birthday tragedy strikes. Not sure what to do, she finds support in her American Lit tutor, Joel Wilson. Their student/teacher relationship crosses the line in a swirl of romance, but things soon spiral out of control.

If that book had been described to me, I don’t think I could have handled it. Romance is so badly written in a lot of books. It throws poetry, roses, love hearts all over the place – it’s often brimming with cliches that make your toes curl. Not here. Though she has the mind and heart of a romantic when abroad, Hadley’s relationship with Joel seems more than natural. The literary references that bind them aren’t overdone and, in fact, you begin to will the couple to get together, rather than hurry up and get it over with. That, from my experience, speaks volumes on how well written it is.

What Hall does is set a story in the space of a year, and really focuses the attention into three main plot points, the romance having its heyday in the space of a few days. But it’s enough. It is enough to justify the slow build up, and inevitable goodbye. Going into it, you know this has a time limit, and it’s not really what you expect. It’s good.

Some of the plot twists are predictable. In fact, I think I picked the main ones that happened (after a few curveball ideas being thrown at me). But you really don’t care.

It’s not a clean cut romance – the book is more consumed with tragedy, mystery and Hugo, an aging author who has lost, and subsequently rediscovers, his passion for writing. The romance fuels plot, and ultimately settles as a story to look back on from a year abroad.

I like the fact I’m disappointed by how shortlived it was, because I had expected myself not to care at all. How pleasantly surprising.

Good points: It’s really well written, and the build up is really natural.
Bad points: Rushed opening and ending. Within a few paragraphs Hadley hears about the study program, applies and moves to Switzerland.
Perfect for: Those open to romantic books. Especially those who are skeptical, because this is more than an in your face boy-meets-girl story. It was a pleasant surprise.


[Also reviewed for Cosmopolitan Magazine]

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