09/40: The Well-Tempered Heart (by Jan-Phillip Sendker)


The Well-Tempered Heart

by Jan-Philipp Sendker

translated by Kevin Wiliarty

To be published in January 2014 by Other Press

WHO: Julia Win, now a thirty-eight year old lawyer back in New York City…

WHAT: starts to hear a voice in her head…

WHERE: that compels her to return to Kalaw…

WHEN: ten years after the events of The Art of Hearing Heartbeats…

WHY: to quiet the voice

HOW: by learning who the voice belongs to and what closure the ghost-voice needs to rest in peace. 

+  Jan-Philipp Sendker’s facility to transport the reader via understated but powerful prose to a foreign time, place and emotional situation as if it were intimately familiar is impressive. 

There are sections that are decidedly not as poetically rendered as the other parts of the novel or The Art of Hearing Heartbeats. In particular, the relationship between Julia and Thar Thar (a monk) was marked by relatively prosaic passages and oddly unsophisticated sentiment. I’m not sure whether this is a matter of the original writing or the translation.

+ The Well-Tempered Heart is what the author himself has described as “the art of forgiveness” and is a story of difficult choices made and the repercussions thereof. It’s not as uplifting at its core as The Art of Hearing Heartbeats and, while not packing the emotional punch of the first novel, The Well Tempered Heart still remains a beautiful, thoughtful and truly memorable story.

OTHER: How did I get a copy of a limited run ARC? I have no shame: I begged. Pleaded. Promised my first-born son (actually a cheat since my only child is a girl, but still…) Details are a little hazy, but I think I owe the devil my soul at this point! I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post. But I think I owe quite a few mortals chocolate and champagne 🙂

I have challenged myself to read forty books this summer. Many books will be backlist titles as I’m trying to clear the stacks; but I have no doubt that new releases will make their way in too! 😉


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