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The Heart Beats in Secret - April book club

(23 Posts)
NatashaGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 04-Apr-19 14:44:50

You should soon start to receive your copies of The Heart Beats in Secret, so please do leave your thoughts and questions for author Katie Munnik on the thread below once you've finished reading. We'll send them over to Katie at the end of the month. smile

If you've bought a copy yourself, you're also very welcome to join the conversation.

Happy reading! brew

mtp123 Wed 10-Apr-19 11:19:34

Dear Katie, I was delighted to be a winner of your book. I confess you were not an author I had heard of. I have thoroughly enjoyed it, in fact so much so that housework was postponed. The characters leapt out of the page and I was intrigued to see the intricacies of their relationships. Many congratulations and looking forward to reading more from you.

chelseababy Thu 11-Apr-19 10:49:37

I've only read the letter at the beginning and I'm hooked!

imacmum Sat 13-Apr-19 18:02:50

I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book, took it on holiday and have read it by day 3. Lots of secrets in this book, I liked the way it switched between the three generations of women whose story was gradually revealed, and also the descriptions of the 60’s etc which struck a chord with me as that was when I was a child. Lots of birds feature in this book. I wonder if the author is a birdwatcher in real life?

Grannyjacq1 Sun 14-Apr-19 12:10:44

Katie Munnik is clearly a very talented writer and I loved her descriptions of nature and the landscape. In many ways she reminded me of writers such as Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. The novel was packed with original and imaginative details and images – the sort you wish you had thought of yourself, and she certainly created in my mind a very vivid picture of the surroundings of her characters in Scotland and Canada.
I did feel that the plot itself was a disappointment – and if you are looking for a novel that offers a ‘page turning’ narrative, then you will feel a bit let down by ‘The Heart Beats in Secret’. The letter to Pidge from her gran at the beginning pulled me into the story line, but after that I found the plot very static. Yes, it was interesting to compare the experiences of three generations of mothers, but I found that – even as a daughter, mother and grandmother, I couldn’t really identify with the characters. Maybe the Canadian aspect was distancing? Spoiler alert – I felt no real emotional engagement when the baby Stanley died, and then Marie. Surely the commune was to blame in some way?
I’ll be interested to discover what other readers felt about the characters and their situations. Perhaps I’ll read it again to see if second time round I enjoy it more. As I said earlier, I loved the descriptive details of the landscape, and feel that Katie Munnik is probably a better poet than novelist at this stage in her career.

LizH13 Sun 14-Apr-19 15:11:25

I was delighted to win a copy of this book, and really enjoyed it. I was drawn into the landscapes and the ages they were set in. The three main characters stories are gradually revealed, and are engaging, and, very sympathetic to the times they were set in. Some of the plot is unexpected and certainly added to my engagement and enjoyment with the story.
I have to disagree with the previous reviewer in blaming the commune, and in the spoiler. In the 60s women and babies did die, as I know from experience as my school friends mum and the baby died in childbirth. It is a dangerous time regardless of the facilities, even today.
Congratulations to Katie on an excellent debut novel.

Liz46 Mon 15-Apr-19 14:50:59

I think to give a more considered review, I would have to read this again but I don't want to do this.

The book jumps backwards and forwards in time and characters which I found a bit difficult. If I put the book down for a day or two, I had to look back to see who I had been reading about and in what year. Also, there seemed to be random descriptions of unrelated things.

About halfway through I thought 'oh that's better' and hoped for a story that would grip me.

Without giving too much away, Felicity lives in a sort of commune for a while where the leader, Rika, was a most irritating know-all.

I am a practical sort of person and this book may have been a bit too whimsical and disjointed for me.

Sarahmob Tue 16-Apr-19 14:51:27

I’m afraid to say that I found this book a real slog, it never really gripped me and consequently I found it hard to want to sit down and read it. The style of the author’s writing was lovely and her descriptions of nature very provocative, but there just wasn’t enough of a plot to drive it along. Nothing much seemed to happen at all. However, thank you for the opportunity to read the novel.

gillyknits Tue 16-Apr-19 20:45:14

Another page turner for a first novel. I really enjoyed this tale of three strong women. It dealt with birth, motherhood and three generations of one family. There are secrets in their lives which are gradually revealed. Today they would probably not be seen as serious secrets but previous generations dealt with things in a very different way.
The story is told through the eyes of the three women each in separate chapters. The descriptions of the places, animals and weather are truly wonderful. The author paints a picture of the wilds of Canada in one instance and the coast of Scotland in another.
I loved the relationship between Pidge and the goose . I eventually realised that it might represent the soul of Anna, (the grandmother.)
Is the author planning another novel based on similar themes? I’d love to read more by her.
Thank you Gransnet.

SueGu Wed 17-Apr-19 09:33:55

I was delighted to win a copy.

I am only about halfway through at the moment.

I'm enjoying the way different centuries are woven together to tell this tale! and the strong women characters.

Thank you Gransnet.

GrannyBear Thu 18-Apr-19 15:54:20

The two things which I enjoyed most about ‘The Heart Beats in Secret’ were reading about the locations in which the book is set and reading the language in which it is written. The main storyline and the characters did not really hold my interest.

The book is set in Scotland and Canada, two countries where I have lived. In Scotland the main action takes place in East Lothian (Aberlady, Gullane, Drem, Haddington and, of course, Edinburgh) and in Canada it’s Montreal. These are all places with which I am familiar. I am always keen to read books set in known landscapes and I appreciate being able to picture where the action takes place and where the characters live their lives.

The story is written from the perspectives of three women. Jane, the Grandmother; Felicity, her Daughter and Pidge, her Granddaughter. Jane is Scottish, Felicity moved from Scotland to Canada and Pidge is Canadian. When Jane dies, she bequeaths her house to Pidge, who travels alone to Scotland to see her inheritance and to make decisions about her future. This is a popular theme in modern writing and I do not feel that ‘The Heart Beats in Secret’ adds anything essentially new to the existing body of literature on the topic. The book is largely about the backgrounds of the three main women. The dialogue switches from one to another as their histories are recounted and their long-held secrets revealed. However, I simply did not find the characters engaging and, at times, I found the storyline somewhat disjointed.

However, I thoroughly enjoyed the language of the book. There are ample descriptions of landscapes and nature, birds in particular, and many amusing anecdotes. The on-going saga of Pidge and the goose made me smile as I read, as did Pidge’s experiences of joining the Minister’s wife at her knitting group. Pidge at the time was young and single, the others in the group were ‘mothers or widows’ and she astutely describes the overall scenario: ‘I can’t fathom why they painted the parlour green, the ladies’ faces catch the colour like a smell’! She also describes two women in particular: ‘her hands are red and dried like a pigeon’s feet’ and ‘this woman is stern-mouthed, her glasses thick and very clean’ [quotes from pages 171-173].

Overall. I am pleased to have been given the opportunity to read and review this book. It wasn’t to my taste but undoubtedly others will react differently!

I’d like to ask Katie Mannix whether she plans to write a sequel to ‘The Heart Beats in Secret’ or will her future writing take her in a completely different direction? Thanks.

magwis Sat 20-Apr-19 10:30:33

A beautifully written book which I did not want to put down. I have not read this author before. The Birthwood commune was interesting. A good read.

Elizabeth180 Sat 20-Apr-19 16:01:58

I am grateful to have received a copy of The Heart Beats in Secret and have just finished reading it. I found the descriptive parts of the book very interesting but it was not a page turner for me. I continued to read it in the hope that something was going to happen but alas, apart from the death of Stanley and the twist regarding Marie's baby, I found the book to be pretty bland and unmemorable. However, I do feel that there is room for a sequel with perhaps more page turning action?

littleflo Sun 21-Apr-19 07:58:24

I do think it is a shame that a spoiler was added in this review. It did not add anything to the reviewers thoughts so could have been left out. I think the the spoiler alert should have been at the beginning of the post. It is too in the middle immediately in front of the reveal.

Matelda Sun 21-Apr-19 09:52:33

I was a young letter-writing woman in the 1960s and 1970s and was raised on my parents’ vivid memories of 1940, so I was expecting a lot from this novel, perhaps more than a young Canadian woman could supply. So many small details jarred. I, for one, wasn’t wearing a ‘brassiere and underpants’ in 1969, (bra and knicks for me) and I don’t think my parents were expecting or eating choc ices or ‘carrot candy’ (whatever that is) at the pictures in 1940 on account of requisitioning and rationing. But in my opinion the greatest flaw was the men, who were shadowy and seemed cowardly (a deserter, a draft dodger). Men make great and loving parents too, and Felicity could have done with a responsible man to stand by her when she was unaccountably unable to summon the gumption to fight for her own child.

GrannieAnnie123 Mon 22-Apr-19 08:43:36

I was delighted to receive this book.I have just read it and found it intriguing! The mix of three women with different generation and different countries was fascinating. I struggled to get into the book then couldn’t wait for the ending. The description of the Scottish coast made me want to walk along the beaches and smell the sea.
A story of the men who deserted in the wars not often written about.
Liked the goose! And the significance,


SheenaBatey123 Sat 27-Apr-19 11:03:23

Thank you for the free copy of this book. I have throughly enjoyed it. Right from the poem at the beginning I was engaged with the story. I found the style pleasing and the plot intriguing.

Grannynise Sun 28-Apr-19 10:33:28

I feel that I am being ungrateful by posting an honest review of this novel: it was very kind of Gransnet to send it.

I found the characters and storyline very unengaging. It felt like a chore to finish it. None of the three women are described in sufficient depth to make them memorable. Each is a 'type' rather than a real person. Having finished reading it a couple of weeks ago none of them remain clearly in my mind. The plot is very contrived and quite predictable. The goose is amusing- was I supposed to understand some mythical or spiritual significance? The main character is Pidge - a nickname based on her given name of Paloma - do geese have a fondness for pigeons?

The only positive I can find (and I've tried) is the occasional poetic description. Now and then this ability to find a telling phrase reminded me of Autumn by Ali Smith, a novel which I would recommend. Maybe Ms Munik could concentrate on writing more poetically in future rather than trying to invent characters and a plot.

Grannynise Sun 28-Apr-19 10:35:30

Sorry, Munnik not Munik.

GeminiJen Sun 28-Apr-19 18:00:47

Thanks to GN for this month’s book choice and to the author for an interesting debut novel.

I liked the way that letters were used throughout the novel, both to draw the reader in at the beginning and, in the case of Felicity’s letters to her mother Jane, to disclose long held secrets when read now by Pidge.

For me, the sections of the book which really came alive were those set in and around Aberlady, as this is where I live. The author’s descriptions are so vivid and true to life: the abundance of bird varieties, large and small, including the pink footed geese which pass through in their thousands every spring and the Canada geese, resident all the year round; the rusty submarines and wrecks which emerge at low tide; the anti-tank cement blocks; the sea buckthorn and yellow gorse; the golfers; the loupin-on stanes; the haar; even the Gullane/Gillin debate(!) I loved the goose and its significance. And I liked the fact that Izaak played a part both in Jane’s story and, again, for Pidge.

I was less caught up in the Canadian story lines. For me, the plot felt weaker here and I didn’t feel the same emotional engagement with the characters. That said, the author’s use of language and descriptions of nature were evocative here too.

All in all, I’m glad I’ve been introduced to this author and will look out for her in the future.

My questions for Katie relate to how much of this was research and how much personal knowledge/experience, especially the Aberlady descriptions?
I’m prompted to ask this because of the inclusion in the Acknowledgements of Nigel Tranter’s Footbridge to Enchantment. A local author of national repute, Nigel Tranter lived in Aberlady since World War 2 and I’ve often heard him speak about his practice of writing every day as he walked over the nature reserve at Aberlady Bay. An unmistakable figure in his tweeds, flat cap and walking boots, by the time he returned home some 12 miles later, he would have completed another 1,000 words of his next book. He carried out this same routine into his 90th year.

ChrissyW Fri 03-May-19 17:23:44

I was thrilled to receive a copy of this debut novel and interested to read something that I wouldn't normally choose.
I enjoyed the trope of maiden, mother, crone and the use of letters to move the story on was clever.
The descriptions of nature and the landscape both rural and urban were inspired with some beautiful writing and evocative phraseology.
I understood the use of the Canadian wilderness as the backdrop to Felicity's story but wondered why you chose the east coast of Scotland as the background narrative for all three women? seemed a desolate place and spoke of loneliness rather than 'home'.
I think as others have said I will re-read the book to see if I can find the underlying message...I think this probably says more about me than you!

indesit Fri 10-May-19 16:32:56

Good all round book, well written throughout, with some winds and turns to keep you interested. Congratulations Katie on your debut novel. Some nice adages and full of depth and interesting characters to keep you engrossed. 10 out of 10.

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 13-May-19 14:14:26

Quick message for all who won a free copy of the book - we will be sending over questions etc to the author in the next few days, so please do post yours on this thread asap