Book Review – The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

theartofhearingheartbeatscover

I came across this book with this gorgeous cover while scanning for new books at Rachna Books, a popular bookstore at my native place, Gangtok. The blurb was intriguing too, coaxing me to try it out.

The story begins well, and the mystery element strikes bells of intrigue in your mind immediately. The language, as expected from an international bestseller, is brilliant—simplicity bathed in a rare class, luring you into the story like a magnet. In the beginning, though, the flashback does play with your patience a touch, making you wonder when Julia’s father’s story will begin. Even now, after finishing the book, I do feel that that portion was a bit unnecessary and instead of elaborating on the characters of his parents, maybe the story could have cut right to his birth. However, after Tin Win’s arrival, the story does become quite gripping.

The author has played a clever card as far as the narration is concerned. As a major part of the story is a flashback from the perspective of the omniscient U Ba, he has been able to get away with certain writing techniques that are considered ill-advised. For one, he could do head hopping without hesitation, and secondly, he could go for direct, raw telling in several places, violating the show-don’t-tell rule. Nevertheless, the story is beautiful and poignant. The unconditional love between Tin Win and Mi Mi is written magically. In a few scenes, I found myself reduced to tears, a characteristic of a wonderful book in my opinion. The blindness of Tin Win and the manner in which he can hear heartbeats and subtle sounds around him are described with magnificent artistry. The characterization of both Tin Win and Mi Mi is exceptional, and their relationship with each other and their loved ones is weaved with a rare grace. The descriptions of Kalaw and its landscape once again deserves applause. The way Tin Win and Mi Mi are shown to handle their disabilities with such optimism and strength sowed seeds of inspiration in my heart. Sometimes you go through bad phases in life, but when you read about people like Tin Win and Mi Mi, you feel ashamed of yourself for complaining about minor problems in your lives when people with such disabilities are living with a smile on their faces.

However, once Tin Win leaves Kalaw, although the strength of the narration didn’t dip, the lackluster reasoning why Tin Win fails to return to Mi Mi left me disappointed, pouring black ink over the near spotless papers of my admiration. The discontent accompanied me till the last few pages, but a certain revelation at the end salvaged the story somewhat. Despite the minor dip as mentioned above, the story is beautiful and for those romantics who believe in true, unconditional love, it would serve as a delightful read, but I somehow could not relate to such obscene levels of patience in human beings. It’s certainly not impossible, but I couldn’t come to believing it.

As far as the language is concerned, I did feel that there was a slight overuse of adverbs, but apart from that, the language is close to perfect. The dialogues are wonderful and thought-provoking, and the inspirational quotes are believable and don’t sound preachy. Almost all metaphors and similes are dipped in admirable originality, lending a poetic touch to the narrative. Thus, the language, without a doubt, is classy.

All in all, this book is certainly a must-read for all lovers of fiction. 4.4 stars from my side.

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