I’ve just finished Meek’s “The Heart Broke In” and enjoyed it far more than I expected to. It’s curious how one makes snap judgements about authors based on nothing at all. I thought I’d dislike this for no reason I can think of. It’s a page-turner of a read; I was always engaged enough to want to know what happened and how it would resolve. It’s one of those sprawling (550 pages) family stories where years pass and we watch the characters evolve. Some of them felt a little sketchy and obvious, mouthpieces for the author to say something about morals, time, mortality, parenting or love. The scientists, the rockstars, the newspaper editor, the postman, the TV presenter – each of these was a clear type.
Bec and Ritchie’s soldier father was killed for not betraying a snitch, the repercussions of this heroic act resonate through the years and provide a core for the novel. Ritchie the rockstar is unscrupulous and utterly delusional about his own goodness. Bec the scientist works selflessly to cure malaria and yet behaves badly to Val, a newspaper editor who sets himself up as moral policeman. Alex (once a hobby musician) is a scientist, as is his dying Uncle Harry. Harry’s own son is rather a cartoon Christian, bringing his family up under Bible rules. Meek attempts big things with this book – it doesn‘t get bigger than Science VS God does it? So it’s a commentary on power, media, sleazy old men and young girls – who is exploiting who? And it succeeds in having enough of a story to tie all these huge issues together. Enjoyable but not dazzling.