Heartburn

Lately I seem to have been casting around in search of a decent book and instead the last novels I’ve read have been 6 turkeys. And then came lucky number 7.

When casually browsing the papers on June 26th (my husband’s 40th birthday), I read that Nora Ephron had died. Her name is to me, a teenager of the 80s, forever linked to Heartburn, a movie I have never seen starring the 80s wunderkinds, Jack Nicholson and of course her awesomeness Meryl Meryl Meryl. Press about that movie was everywhere and – even though I’ve never seen it – I knew the premise was Meryl and that rat bastard Jack were breaking up and she was up the duff. I even knew that Meryl was really playing Nora but I didnt know (until now) that Jack was actually playing Carl Bernstein of Watergate and All the President’s Men fame where he was the one played by Dustin, not Redford. Do keep up.

Anyway, I didn’t know that Ephron was responsible for Sleepless in Seattle or a heap of other stuff in the genre, mainly because I can’t stand Meg Ryan and I’m the only person on the planet who doesn’t like When Harry Met Sally either (another Ephron movie). Really, I don’t. So, if I had known all of that beforehand, I may not have read the obit but I didn’t, so I did. And in reading it, I read enough to make me pick up the novel I’d never known preempted the movie. It would have served me right to miss it for being such an awful dismissive snob.

It’s a funny, tragic and devastating riff on the little deaths that occur in marriages and relationships when people have been together a long time or if you have children together. But it’s also a hymn to self-belief, moving-forward after gut-wrenching disappointments and the brief loss of hope. It sounds utterly dreadful, i know i’m hardly persuasive, but Ephron’s beautiful wisdom and insight into the minutiae of marital discord, the insanity of human behaviour and the hilarious nature, once you get past the hurt, of people’s justification of their betrayals, made me want to close this book and instantly start it again. No need to start reading anything into the state of my marriage based upon my opinion that Nora gets it totally on the nose. Anyone who’s been with anyone for longer than five minutes will get it and if you don’t fall into that category, you’ve probably got a heap of other issues not covered here.

I’m glad I didn’t read Heartburn in the 80s. I shudder to think what I would have made of it, but I sure as hell wish I had been reading it 5 years ago when I was surrounded by people behaving jaw-droppingly badly. Nora avenged her pain to out the lot of her bunch of swines hilariously and candidly. It almost makes you wish we’d backed Nixon. Almost. Their painful humiliation is our gain.

She seemed like quite a woman and Heartburn is quite a book.

“It takes a huge amount of will and energy for anything to happen to you… Don’t let the New York Times article about the brilliant success of Wellesley graduates in the business world fool you – there’s still a glass ceiling. Don’t let the number of women in the workforce trick you – there are still lots of magazines devoted almost exclusively to making perfect casseroles and turning various things into tents … The acquittal of OJ Simpson is an attack on you. Any move to limit abortion rights is an attack on you.” Nora Ephron

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