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Strange Heart Beating by Eli Goldstone – An Introspection About Relationships

4th August, 2017

Book Review : Strange Heart Beating by Eli Goldstone

Seb is devastated when his wife is killed by a swan. As he tries to discover more about the woman he lost, he uncovers a past that he never knew.


This book attracted me because of its stunning cover. In fact it was one of my favourite covers in the list of 14 Delicious covers of 2017. I was intrigued by the blurb too. It was strange, it was real. What are the odds that a woman be killed by a swan? The story resembles the myth of Leda and the swan in which Zeus takes the form of a swan and ravishes Leda, the wife of Tyndareus. There are different versions of the myth about what happens after that.

Leda (yes, that is our heroine’s name too) is a young artist married to a historian husband. The unexpected tragedy of her death leaves her husband, Seb, devastated. It is during this time that Seb comes across the correspondence between his wife and a man named Olaf. He tries to track down Olaf to know more about the relationship between the two and why his wife had never mentioned Olaf to him.

Seb travels to the Latvian village where Olaf resides to uncover Leda’s past. He is in for a huge surprise when he realizes that Olaf’s Leda is very different from the woman who was his wife. She wasn’t even called Leda then, but as Leila. This is shocking and Seb tries to discover more about his wife’s past. Seb’s two women friends, Ursula and Agnes, make him question love, life and loss while his growing friendship with Olaf makes him yearn for solid answers to his questions.

Book Review : Strange Heart Beating by Eli Goldstone

The novel is divided into two sections, each having a distinct tone in itself. In the first part, Seb relives his time with Leda through his memories. In the second part, he travels to the Latvian village and meets Olaf, his suspicious side kicks and a woman with whom a small romance blooms. Intermittently we get glimpses of Leda’s diary entries that reveal her true nature and the life she lead before meeting Seb.

However, midway through, the novel loses its shine and meanders on. Some of the events seemed to add little value to the overall plot. Also, the myth of Leda and the swan was drowned in the Seb’s reflections about his own life. The novel takes the reader on the journey of healing the wounds that a tragedy can leave in your life and makes you ponder about how much (or how less) we actually know the people we love.

Final Verdict :

If you are someone who enjoys books that dissect the workings of the human mind especially when confronted with grief, you might enjoy the novel.

Title : Strange Heart Beating
Author : Eli Goldtone
Publisher : Granta
Publication: 2017
Language : English
Pages : 208
Rating : 3/5

Disclaimer : Much thanks to Granta for a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

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Strange Heart Beating
This Post Has 21 Comments
  1. I think I probably enjoyed this one more than you but was also drawn to it by its gorgeous cover. Seb’s self-centredness was extraordinary – it seemed he’d never asked Leda any questions about her past – but the book’s humour nicely offset that for me.

    1. I wonder how many of us don’t ask a lot of questions about the past when love comes our way. I bet that is fairly common. Do we fall in love with a history or with the person in front of us at the time. Sort of start there and more forward. Still, I see your point and Ilse’s comment about pixie dream girls leads me to avoid this book in spite of the great cover.

      1. That is a very deep question indeed. How much do we know (or want to know) about the people we love. The cover art is stunning but I wish the book maintained its pacing in the second half of the novel

    2. Seb was interesting indeed. Also I found it interesting that in the first half of the book he is obsessed by his grief and his wife but as we come to the second half, he is socializing more and he is thinking lesser about Leda. Kind of like how our memories make peace with themselves and how life outshines them. I am glad you enjoyed the read more than me.

  2. This is a really intriguing premise for a story! I completely understand how you could captivated by the cover and the blurb. It’s a shame the story starts to meander. I find that’s far too often the case in stories which explore the human psyche and inner workings on the mind. Was the writing captivating?

    1. I loved the book for the first half but the second half felt as if something was missing from it. That is such a shame especially since the first half was intriguing and the cover art is brilliant

  3. I’ve been intrigued since Reads&Daydreams spoke of this novel, but she also had the same comment about the story going stale midway through. I love that the swan is not just a modern metaphor of the Leda myth, but that it actually did kill someone. Still, I can’t say I like that his dead wife is solely used as a manic pixie dream plot device.

    p.s. your blog is beautiful! sleek and clean, and easy on the eyes.

    1. I love Lauren (Reads and Daydreams) too. I remember her video about this book. I think most readers found the same problem with it. I was pumped up for the first half but after that my interest waned.

      Thanks a bunch for stopping by, Ilse.

  4. I definitely agree that the cover is beautiful. Also, the premise sounds really great. However I am sorry to hear that it was no longer as promising as it seems. Great review!

  5. It is always disappointing when a novel which promises so much loses its way a little. The premise is very intriguing however, and yes the cover art is stunning too.

    1. That is true, Ali. I felt a bit sad by the end because I had high hopes for the book. But Goldstone definitely has a talent for writing and hopefully her future novels will tune out the short comings in this book

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