A Heart bent out of Shape by Emylia Hall
Published by Headline Review
13th March 2014
For Hadley Dunn, life so far has been uneventful – no great loves, no searing losses. But that’s before she decides to spend a year studying in the glittering Swiss city of Lausanne, a place that feels alive with promise. Here Hadley meets Kristina, a beautiful but elusive Danish girl, and the two quickly form the strongest of bonds. Yet one November night, as the first snows of winter arrive, tragedy strikes.
Hadley, left reeling and guilt-stricken, begins to lean on the only other person to whom she feels close, her American Literature professor Joel Wilson. But as the pair try to uncover the truth of what happened that night, their tentative friendship heads into forbidden territory. And before long a line is irrevocably crossed, everything changes, and two already complicated lives take an even more dangerous course…
Before Hadley, there was Lausanne, before Kristina, and Jacques, and Joel, there was still Lausanne. Their presence in the city was only passing; the lake did not burst its banks, no mountainsides were sent crumbling, and no shutters broke from immaculate buildings to go clattering to the ground. Yet between the striding bridges and the turreted apartment blocks, the tree-lined streets and the looping parks, they played out their trysts and tragedies. Through it all, Lausanne remained unaltered, but the same could not be said for the lives of the people who lived there.
It was Hadley’s second year of university and she was spending it abroad, in Switzerland. La Suisse. Her idea of the place belonged to cartoons – cuckoo clocks and soupy cheese, triangular chocolate and cool neutrality – but then she looked in a guidebook and saw the words ‘Swiss Riviera’. She read about Lausanne; a city of vertical streets, rising spires and tumbling rooftops. She’d seen a picture of Lac Léman, shining like a polished mirror, with the serrated edges of Les Dents du Midi and Mont Blanc rising behind. There were palm trees and vineyards and palatial hotels with striped awnings that flapped in the breeze. Lausanne seemed possessed of a quiet glamour, discreet but with a rippling undercurrent, un frisson.
A Heart Bent out of Shape is Emylia Hall’s second novel, following on from the bestseller The Book of Summers. In this, she tells of student Hadley who by chance applies for a study year in the Swiss city of Lausanne, and is accepted to continue her degree there. Instantly she meets Danish student Kristina and they become best friends, sharing and doing everything together, apart from one thing. Kristina has a boyfriend, Jacques, but she won’t introduce him to Hadley, and he remains something of a mystery.
On the evening of Hadley’s birthday, a tragedy occurs, and Hadley decides she needs to trace and find Jacques, but who is he, and how should she begin? There are only two people to whom she can turn, an old gentleman called Hugo whom she meets in a hotel, and Joel, her professor. Working together they try to piece together the mystery and locate Jacques, but all is not what it seems and Hadley winds up playing a dangerous game. This is an excellent book, I was grabbed from the start, and Lausanne is wonderfully described. Emylia Hall keeps the suspense going to the very end, and I hadn’t a clue where the tale was going. A real-page turner.
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