Thank you to the lovely people at Europa Editions for my copy of Strike Your Heart by Amélie Nothomb. All thoughts and images are my own.
Title: Strike Your Heart
Author: Amélie Nothomb
Genre: Fiction in Translation
Pub date: September 11, 2018 (in the US)
Read if you like: stories of imperfect relationships between mothers and their daughters.
This is one of the most special books I have read in 2018, without a doubt. Concise and brilliant, Nothomb’s work shows the level of world building that is possible to accomplish in just 135 pages. I didn’t want it to go on forever – I thought its brevity was part of its brilliance. Instead, I wanted to start this story over as soon as I had finished. I think I could read this book 15 times and be moved every single time.
Nothomb expertly crafts the beginning of this story through the eyes of a surprisingly insightful narrator: a baby. From the start, Diane is observant and forgiving in a way that even some adults I know are not. I was on board with her from the first few chapters. I’m envious of her mind and her drive. I want to be her and be her friend all at once, despite how obvious it is that she is just fine on her own.
Strike Your Heart is a brilliant examination in the way that jealousy can play out over years and in the way that forgiveness can come and go. Nothomb explores how jealousy is linked to future competitiveness and how conflicts of love without our knowledge. Overwhelming love is undeniably wonderful but has the ability to blind us to the issues of others that we love slightly less. It explains how this situation persists despite how much Diane’s father loves her. He just loves her mother even more. No one in this story is stupid; at worst, they are selfish.
I don’t want to say much more. I do want you to go and experience this book for yourself. I know that I’ll be picking it up many, many more times. This book will certainly strike your heart, as it did mine.
Interested in Strike Your Heart? Click here to support your local indie bookstore or here to buy it on Amazon.
SYNOPSIS: (AS TOLD BY THE BACK OF THE BOOK)
Diane is raised by a mother so plagued by jealousy of her own daughter that she is incapable of showing affection to her. Despite this, Diane grows up to become a brilliant young woman who rejects societal expectations. She forges her own path, dismissing suitors and pursuing her dream of becoming a cardiologist. At university, she befriends an assistant professor, Olivia. Intelligent and cold, Olivia’s ambition and need to feel superior to others drags Diane down to a dark place.
This is the story of Diane’s relationships with other women: her best friend, the sweet Élisabeth; her mentor, the selfish Olivia; her sister, the coddled Célia; and, of course, her mother Marie. Nothomb balances light-hearted observations with sharp revelations, exposing the varieties of female bonds. Strike Your Heart takes a philosophical look at jealousy, contempt, loss, betrayal, and above it all, the capacity for forgiveness.
With her trademark wit, brevity, and tightly wound plots, Nothomb, one of Europe’s most acclaimed and beloved authors, has crafted an insightful story about a modern heroine who will linger in the minds of readers long after the final page.