If this book hadn't been vouched for by Anna Hope and Nathan Filer pre-publication, I highly doubt I would have given it a second glimpse. As it was, I adore Hope and Filer's novels so I took that as a sign. Usually the two subjects of this book - the 2004 tsunami and the Bosnian war - would not necessarily appeal to me unless, as with Girl at War by Sara Novic which I read whilst in Croatia, I was reading for a specific reason. I'm glad that I did give this emotive and expansive book a try and it's made me realise that perhaps I should also be expanding my horizons.
It's 1994 and Marko is devastated by the loss of his best friend Kemal, a young soldier in the Bosnian war. After Kemal's funeral Marko flees to England to escape his memories and his broken homeland.
In 2004 Anya flies out to Thailand to meet her ex-boyfriend and love of her life, clinging onto a vague hope that they can rebuild their relationship. She is also researching crimes against women in the Bosnian war and on the hunt for one particular man. Little do they know a disaster is approaching that will connect their fates across the years and the continents.
They Are Trying to Break Your Heart is a multi-narrative novel, it's various strands weaving in and around one another. Occasionally these strands felt muddled and I initially found it quite difficult to settle into the rhythm of the changing narration. Generally though, once I'd accustomed myself to the various story arcs, I found I could follow it with ease.
When I had settled in to the rhythm of the novel I found it very difficult to pull myself away. Savill is quite the master of holding things back and revealing details which you think are huge early on, but actually are not the most important thing. I found this with both William and Anya's story and Marko's story. This gave an otherwise calm novel (in terms of action, not emotion), some significant pace.
I find it weird that I just wrote that this is a calm story in terms of action because actually this novel is about war and natural tragedy, death and trauma. Yet the acts and the actions are not the focus here; the people, the after-effects and the need to make a life in the wake of such horrors, are far more important.
Initially I wondered whether Savill had bitten off more than he could chew with two such huge subjects and I did think it would possibly work better as two separate narratives, but they are subtly woven together in a way that makes it work. I particularly think the way Savill unites the two strands towards the end was effective and almost melted the topics into one without compromising the significance of either.
When I finished reading They Are Trying to Break Your Heart I made a note on the inside of the book which says 'people haunted by their history, finding their way out, facing the past and learning to live again'. I guess that pretty much sums up what I took from this book - it's a subtle exploration of humanity in the face of tragedy. This is an impressive debut - though I would add that it's not without flaws - and I think Savill's sensitivity and lightness of touch when writing about two very dark and tragic subjects suggests that we can expect great things in the future.
Would you read this book? In the interests of expanding my horizons, are their any books you'd recommend?
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.