The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

The art of hearingThere was much that I liked about this novel. Set in Burma, it begins with Julia Win arriving in Kalaw searching for her father, a successful New York lawyer originally from Burma. He had disappeared four years previously without trace, but while searching through his belongings her mother had found an unsent love letter written to an unknown woman called Mi Mi who lived in Kalaw. Here she meets an elderly Burmese man called U Ba who appears to have been waiting for her to arrive. And he starts to tell her a story, the story of her father and a story of true love.

The tale itself is beautifully told and filled with Eastern spirituality and superb descriptions of Burma. It is the story of love between a blind man, and a crippled woman who combine their different senses and abilities to explore their world together. I loved the way that the story built gently, describing how they met and fell in love, and I found the descriptions of Tin Win exploring his world using his hearing so atmospheric and such a wonderful way to describe a country like Burma. And I liked the way that different threads of the story tied together at the end.

However, it didn’t totally sweep me away, as I wanted it to, because I didn’t like Julia at all. And because, despite all the good points, it still lacked a certain something for me – I love a good modern fairytale, like The Snow Child, but for the second half of this book the love story didn’t quite seem believable so rather than being totally swept along I had a nagging doubt in the back of my head.

But I would definitely recommend it, especially if you enjoy books with a wonderful sense of place and a little eastern spirituality.

Jo

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