My grateful thanks to Paul Tudor Owen for sending me a copy of The Weighing of the Heart in return for an honest review and for his patience in waiting for it to emerge from my TBR!
The Weighing of the Heart is a finalist in the Peoples Book Prize too.
The Weighing of the Heart
Following a sudden break-up, Englishman in New York Nick Braeburn takes a room with the elderly Peacock sisters in their lavish Upper East Side apartment, and finds himself increasingly drawn to the priceless piece of Egyptian art on their study wall – and to Lydia, the beautiful Portuguese artist who lives across the roof garden.
But as Nick draws Lydia into a crime he hopes will bring them together, they both begin to unravel, and each find that the other is not quite who they seem.
Paul Tudor Owen’s intriguing debut novel brilliantly evokes the New York of Paul Auster and Joseph O’Neill.
My Review of The Weighing of the Heart
Moving in to the Peacock sisters’ apartment leads to more than Nick could imagine.
I hardly know where to begin in reviewing The Weighing of the Heart because, despite its brevity, it is a complex and fascinating story that left me with more questions than it answered, because of its superstitious and almost spiritual elements that I found so intriguing.
There’s a visual quality to Paul Tudor Owen’s writing that creates an almost film noir setting in New York. His prose feels timeless so that The Weighing of the Heart could have been based in almost any era from the early twentieth century to the present day. It made me think of an Orson Welles movie as I read, because of the creation of atmosphere and the sense of menace that underlies the romance and mystery of the story.
The combining of modern American life with the Egyptian fables, metaphors and traditions made The Weighing if the Heart deliciously mythological and disturbing. Images of danger and death swirl, appear and fade, only to reform until the reader is as mesmerised as is Nick. The whole time I was reading I found a line from Macbeth circling in my mind as increasingly Nick’s life appeared to be affected by ‘the heat-oppressed brain’. The reduced number of characters as well as the New York setting added to a feeling of claustrophobia that contributed to this atmosphere.
Curiously I found Nick a completely unlikeable protagonist until the final few pages of the novel when I felt I had come to understand him, and how the book had been structured, and yet he drew me in until I was almost as obsessed in knowing his likely fate in front of the Devourer as he was. I thought he was as self delusional in chasing the American dream as any Willy Lomax and so brilliantly drawn to the extent that Paul Tudor Owen almost makes the reader become Nick as they are absorbed into the action with him.
Alongside the themes of obsession, identity, greed, fear and imagination is a really good thriller too. I can’t say too much about the plot, for fear of spoiling the read for others, but I had no idea how it might end as Nick spiralled into situations of his own making. Paul Tudor Owen has somehow managed to balance opposites like deception and truth so finely that the structure of the book mirrors its title perfectly.
I found The Weighing of the Heart an intense and curious read that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the fact that it can be read on so many different levels and I doubt I have scratched the surface of what the book has to offer. I really recommend it.
About Paul Tudor Owen
Paul Tudor Owen was born in Manchester in 1978 and was educated at the University of Sheffield, the University of Pittsburgh, and the London School of Economics.
He began his career as a local newspaper reporter in north-west London, and currently works at The Guardian, where he spent three years as deputy head of US news at the paper’s New York office.
You can follow Paul on Twitter @PaulTOwen.