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16 September 2013

Review: 'A Heart Bent Out of Shape' by Emylia Hall (2013)

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, beings 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...

Thanks to the lovely Ben at Headline I received a review copy of Emylia Hall’s ‘A Heart Bent Out of Shape.’ This is Emylia Hall’s second novel, which judged by the blurb promises a mysterious and intriguing story set in Switserland. Her debut ‘The Book of Summers’ was picked as a Richard and Judy Summer Book Club read and I’ve only heard and read great things about it. So, needless to say, I was quite curious to discover Emylia Hall’s writing myself.

Hadley Dunn leads a normal and not too exciting life. One day, she decides it is time for something adventurous, a change, which results in her leaving home to go and study for a year in the city of Lausanne in Switserland. Lausanne is full of promise and Hadley quickly becomes close friends with the Danish girl who lives in the room next to hers, Kristina. Unexpectedly, tragedy strikes, and Hadley’s Swiss adventure is suddenly turned into a nightmare. The only person she feels she can trust is her American Literature professor, Joel Wilson, whom she forms a close relationship with. Hadley wants to discover what happened that cold November night when everything changed, but this turns out to be a more difficult and intriguing task than she initially thought.    

‘A Heart Bent Out of Shape’ is set in Lausanne, and Emylia Hall provides the reader with magnificent descriptions of this Swiss city. It almost felt like I was walking down the snow-covered streets myself, as if I could feel the cold and see the tops of the mountains in the distance. With her words, she manages to convey a very specific feeling and image, a particular atmosphere, which fits the story perfectly and made me curious to visit Lausanne myself someday. Next to the scene setting, I was straightaway intrigued by Hadley and I liked her as a character. A couple of years ago I was a student myself and I really wanted to study abroad for a couple of months, preferably in the UK, but I never dared to actually do it. Hadley takes the plunge, and I admire her for stepping out of her comfort zone. I also loved her friendship with Kristina and the relationship she builds up with Hugo, a retired crime author who spends his days drinking brandy at a fancy hotel in Lausanne.

It took a bit of time before the story really got going, but this provides the reader with a couple of chapters to get acquainted with Hadley as the protagonist of the story and the city of Lausanne; chapters that build up to the moment of tragedy which is what the rest of the novel focuses on. After that moment, I simply wanted to read on and on to discover more about the story. The novel includes a big twist at the end, which I personally had not expected. ‘A Heart Bent Out of Shape’ is a poignant and captivating read about hope, first love, and loss, which you will not want to put down until you’ve discovered all of it!


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