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Amelia Bradlow has a pretty perfect life. She is happily married to Ed, lives in a gorgeous house and has her own holiday home. What more could she want? It's not until best friend Kiki asks why they sleep in different beds that Amelia realizes how far from perfect her life really is.
It's the matter of babies that bothers Amelia the most, and it soon becomes obvious that she has 'painted' this perfect life over a huge hole that not having a baby has created. Ed, on the other hand, likes his tidy and predictable life, and quite likes having a wife who attends to his every need. Amelia seems to have put her longings behind her, though, until she reaches 37.
Kiki is a brilliant character, an extravagant and rich friend who is hopelessly disorganized, and wills Amelia to choose between her pleasant husband and a new temptation...namely Joseph, the first boy Amelia ever kissed, who has arrived back in town feeling flirty.
Amelia doesn't appear to have ever considered other men, and is lost in the idea that her marriage could be any different. She's torn between the predictability and stableness of Ed, and the crazy and unpredictability of leaving him to find someone who will love her unconditionally, and give her the children she longs for.
I loved this book. Maggie shows how deeply she understands the differences between the head and the heart, and perfectly describes how Amelia feels. She perfectly shows how the world often demands compromises which keep us content, but not happy, and you'll find yourself desperate for Maggie to choose the right decision.
I couldn't put this down, from the introductions to a group of realistic, if sometimes annoying, characters to the perfect explanation of being torn between two completely different lives.
Amelia Bradlow has been married to Ed for fifteen years. When Amelia's friend Kiki asks her why she and Ed sleep in separate beds, Amelia is stumped. Kiki's question forces Amelia to take a long, hard look at her marriage and what it has become. Not only that but up re-appears Joseph Hardwick, the first boy Amelia kissed, and she finds she's still attracted to him. Will Amelia stick with Ed or will she take a chance for Joseph?
Having enjoyed Maggie Alderson's previous books, Mad About The Boy and Handbags and Gladrags, I was really looking forward to Maggie's newest book How To Break Your Own Heart. Maggie offered me the chance to read it and after waiting a loooong time, the book finally arrived. I started it almost straight away and was quickly caught up in Amelia's life. How To Break Your Own Heart is a similar plot to most chick lit books, woman wants a baby but her husband doesn't, but Maggie deals with it in an enjoyable way.
The book starts with the question, "Do you always sleep in separate beds?" and I was easily sucked in. Kiki's question wasn't her being nosey, I don't think, but more her being curious as to why a couple, married for 15 years, slept in separate beds. It was an interesting way to start the book, I have to say and it gives us the plot of the whole book in one single sentence; I don't mean that in a bad way, either. We're quickly introduced to Amelia and over the first few chapters we find out just how Amelia and Ed met, in France, and it was quite a romantic story, actually. I loved hearing how he'd practically whisked her away from where she was staying and they then roamed around the French countryside visiting vineyards. I could feel Ed's passion for wine and see how easily Amelia fell in love with him. Maggie then brings us back to the present day and I can also, sort of, see how Amelia and Ed have fallen into a rut; sleeping in separate beds in separate bedrooms, Amelia tiring of the whole wine thing, and then the big one: Amelia wanting a child. It's pretty obvious from the off that Amelia would like a child but I thought Ed explained himself well when saying he didn't want children and of what we learn from his childhood, you can kind of see why.
It's Kiki, Amelia's new friend, who really brightens up Amelia's life. You can see that instantly. Kiki changes the way Amelia feels about herself, she brings Amelia's sparkle back and she also, in her own way, is the catalyst for Amelia's career-change. Amelia might be the one narrating the story to us but it's Kiki who brings the whole thing to life. She's loud, she could potentially get on your nerves, but she's also a really great friend. I could see why Ed wasn't a fan of Kiki though; after all, she was changing the image and total persona of the woman he loved and he could do little about it, but I myself loved Kiki. Everything she does for Amelia is for Amelia's own good whether Amelia or Ed see it that way or not.
I liked Amelia immediately but I felt she was incredibly subservient as the book wore on; letting Ed pretty much tell her what to do. Ed was by no means controlling but I could see he thought Amelia should act in a certain way. Amelia also let Kiki steamroller her into her new career, as well as having a total image overhaul, and while that was great for Amelia, she also came across as a bit of a pushover. I liked Amelia, don't get me wrong I just wish she had more of a backbone. I was surprised to find I actually quite liked Ed; he never once said he may change his mind about having a child and I don't see why Amelia never brought it up during their 15 years of marriage, how can you even marry someone without knowing their stance on bringing a child into the world? Yes, Ed was a bit snobby and annoying but I felt he genuinely loved Amelia in his own quirky way. I was probably the only one hoping for a happy ending between the two. As I said before, I loved Kiki. She carried the story for me and it was rare for Amelia to not mention her. I looked forward to reading what on Earth she did next and loved how she roped Amelia into de-cluttering her house and thus sent Amelia onto her new career path. Because Joseph Renwick was barely featured in the book up until the last quarter I can't really say what I thought of him. If I had to at a push I'd say I wasn't really a huge fan of him; probably because I liked Ed but also because as I said, he was barely in the book and Amelia and he rarely had any conversations with each other until the last quarter of the book. He was in the first three-quarters of the book but more as a passenger than a story-changer. There were a few other characters in the book; Oliver, Amelia and Kiki's gay friend, Hermione, Amelia's elderly next door neighbour in Winchelsea whom I adored, Sonny, Amelia and Hermione's gardener in Winchelsea, Dick, Amelia's brother as well as Amelia's parents, I liked Amelia's mother but couldn't stand her father, he was really quite mean.
Kiki also has a secret which is incredibly sad, which adds to the seriousness of the book. As I mentioned above, Amelia's father is kind of mean. He came across as controlling and, although it's never mentioned, I'd have thought maybe a bit violent. I wish we'd had a scene in the book where Amelia or Dick stood up to him, I felt like he needed to be told a few home truths. He was truly repulsive.
I did enjoy the book, don't get me wrong, but for me it wasn't as good as Mad About The Boy. Amelia was likeable enough, absolutely, but I ended up getting annoyed at her as the book drew to a close and she still couldn't/wouldn't make her mind up. I also don't get the fact that after 15 years of marriage she wasn't aware her husband didn't want children. The book was well written, though, which can always make a book more enjoyable. Maggie's writing seems to flow easily so her books are incredibly easy to get into. It's just a shame I didn't enjoy it as much as I wanted to.