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.