What’s it all about?:
The Unremarkable Heart is the story of June, a school principal who is given a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer and is thinking back over the trauma in her past at the moment of her death.
What did I think?:
It’s probably no secret to anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis that I’m a big Karin Slaughter fan. There was a time before I expanded my reading horizons slightly that I read this genre pretty much exclusively and along with Tess Gerritsen, Karin Slaughter is one of my “must-buy” authors whenever she releases a new book. I’ve recently been thoroughly enjoying her short stories and The Unremarkable Heart is, I have to say, a complete blinder. The author is becoming hugely expert in writing short fiction that grips the reader immediately from the gripping first line: “June Connor knew that she was going to die today,” to the final, jaw-dropping ending that I have to admit, did give me a rather embarrassing moment in public as I gasped aloud on a busy train!
June Connor has been given a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer and about five months to live – six if she’s lucky. Unlike other people who rush to do something they have always dreamed of or take a no expenses spared holiday, June carries on working as a principal at the local school. She stays until she can physically and mentally no longer do the job any longer then informs the staff through email of her death sentence. She is being looked after at home by her husband, Richard and as her life-force begins to drain away, she finds herself revisiting two particularly traumatic and life-changing episodes in her past that involve her husband and her daughter, Grace.
Things get a whole lot murkier when June recounts for the reader what she has been through and how it has affected her relationship with her husband. The hatred between the couple is intense but, as we read on, perfectly understandable. As June has been with Richard for so long however, they have both become accustomed to each other and she is terrified of dying alone. So Richard looks after her and sometimes, appears to be a changed person in caring for his wife. Or has he an ulterior motive?
Loved this story. Loved, loved, loved it. At first, I wasn’t sure about the character of June at all. The author portrays her as such a stoic, almost cold individual but then as the narrative continues the reader begins to understand exactly why she is this way. Once more, as with a lot of her short stories, Karin Slaughter has knocked it out of the park with an intense plot and shocking revelations that will stay with you long after you’ve finished. In parts, it’s also incredibly sad and quite moving especially when June is clearly suffering. I definitely felt like I went through almost the entire range of human emotions when reading this! The author has a canny way of grabbing your attention and refusing to let you go until the bitter end. And this ending is very bitter…believe me.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Red Letter Day by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales