Publisher: Headline Review (12 Sep 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…
A beautiful prologue about Lausanne and its effect. From the very beginning I felt the magic of this place …
Beginning with Hadley observing a fellow student looking through the brochure for L’Institut Vaudois we find out how Hadley has stayed in her home town for Uni and how inexperienced she is with life. Family is the focus and mainstay for her.
She’s ready for change though and on the brink. Her perceptions are changing as she takes a step out of that ordinary life …
Hall captures the excitement of exploring a new place. Lausanne comes alive for the reader and places us right by Hadley’s side. I felt the cadences of emotion, settling into halls, making friends.
On her first night out in Lausanne, Hadley decides to walk home after the pub. With all her emotions and senses heightened, she wants to ‘feel’ where she will be making her home for the next year. A voice out of the dark halts her. A brief exchange and she’s on her way.
And then there’s Kristina.
Their bond is there from the beginning, one seemingly balancing the other. Kristina appearing so sophisticated and worldwise against Hadley’s naiveté. Kristina’s mysterious boyfriend Jacques does change their friendship. I did have my suspicions about who he was, although I was wrong on that count, I was right on another.
I also enjoyed the friendship between Hadley and Hugo Bezier. An aging customer in the hotel who she bumps into time and again and who becomes important to her. Not quite a fatherly figure (he’s mourning the loss of his youth), after the tragedy he makes suggestions that lead Hadley on the wrong path (and the reader :)). Hadley is a catalyst for him that I hadn’t foreseen. I loved that she enriched his life!
So, we know from the blurb that something tragic is going to happen – the seed is already there. With the build up there is no surprise when it comes. However, we get to see another side to Lausanne. The veneer of magic, like all ‘perfect’ places in the world, has an undertow …
Before the tragedy, Hadley has growing feelings for Joel, her literature professor, and often replays the sentences and looks that pass between them (I remember those days well!) He is her first port of call. There is something dark and menacing underlying their relationship as they investigate and become closer and closer. The love is raw and intense with that feeling of anxiety always below the surface.
A Heart Bent Out Of Shape is so poignant. The story of a girl who hasn’t suffered any grief in her life but who comes alive emotionally and feels the blackness of sorrow and confusion of love. Although Hadley does spend time in halls, establishments in Lausanne and with others, this is primarily a journey in isolation. She is such a fabulous character. I still think about her now!
I loved the pace of the plot unfolding, the characters, the place. From the very beginning I have been totally swept up in Hadley’s world in Lausanne. Hall’s writing paints the scenes in vivid detail. One life ended, another life finding meaning again and a waking of emotions. I highly recommend you add A Heart Bent Out Of Shape to your reading list.
I would like to thank @BenWillisUK for offering a copy in exchange for an honest review.