With Your Crooked Heart

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9780871137739: With Your Crooked Heart

Caught between two brothers, Louisa--a tough meditative Londoner--marries Paul and finds herself trapped in a family with the self-destructive, criminal younger brother Johnnie.

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Review:

Fatal love and the ambiguous bond of brotherhood are central to Helen Dunmore's With Your Crooked Heart. Siblings Paul and Johnnie are born more than a decade apart in an East London tenement. Sworn to protect and nurture his brother, Paul elevates them both to a life of wealth and status through a string of dubious land-development deals. As a result, Johnnie has "what Paul never had: he'd had father and brother, all rolled into one, and a future that someone else had already paid for." But with his life mortgaged to his ever-loving brother, the impossibly beautiful Johnnie becomes as compelled by the possibilities of failure as his sibling is by success.

Paul, meanwhile, weds Louise, and his "passion of protectiveness" immediately draws Johnnie into the heart of their marriage. Needless to say, the bride may well wish for less of a ménage à trois:

He sat across the kitchen table from me, smiling, and told me there'd been a complete fuck-up over manufacturing acid in a farmhouse in Herefordshire. He would have made a million. It was always a million with Johnnie: some glittering amount of money that you couldn't really pin down.... We let ourselves think he was like a child. It was the angle we looked at him. When you see a cat play, if you can call it play, you thank God it's the size it is.
But after giving birth to a daughter, Louise attempts to drown her own secrets with drink, beginning a slow progression of loss that will drag down her family in its wake. "I could look back and show you each step of the way that's got us here," she recalls, mapping her melancholy journey. Yet when Louise is presented with one last chance to save Johnnie from himself, some sort of redemption seems in the offing.

Dunmore's success here, as in such earlier novels as Talking to the Dead and Your Blue-Eyed Boy, is her ability to combine sublime prose with a swift and sure-footed narrative. Yet With Your Crooked Heart also goes beyond this alchemy of poetry and plot: it delivers an understated, emphatic study of alcoholism, adult self-delusion, and the emotional relativity of all relationships in a world where "not being able to trust yourself is the biggest thrill of all." --Rachel Holmes

From AudioFile:

It's all in the details. Marked by poetic turns of phrase and breathtaking imagery, WITH YOUR CROOKED HEART leaves the listener spellbound by its attention to the minute pieces of life. Reader Janet Maw's velvety croon is at once innocent and seductive as she guides listeners through the flashbacks that make up the story. A number of stories are told in this novel, some from a second person point of view that Maw shares effortlessly. The lives of Louise, Paul, and Johnnie are confided to the listener, rather than just read. In this audiobook, the characters' lives blend together crisply, and Maw's crisp rendition allows the reader to watch. L.B.F. © AudioFile 2001, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine

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Dunmore, Helen
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