‘Heather, the Totality’ by Matthew Weiner


Genre: Fiction, Novella

Weiner was the creator, writer, executive producer and director of Mad Men and this is his first novel. This story is about the Breakstone family, a wealthy Manhattan family who arrange their lives arrange their daughter Heather. But as Heather gets older and her empathy sharpens and her radiance attracts more and more dark interest. Meanwhile a very different life, one raised in poverty and violence, is beginning its own malign orbit around Heather.

The major themes of the story are obsession, commitment, family and money. The book plays on these themes in their extremes through the lives of the two major characters Heather and Bobby.

The overall message of the book: love can be all encompassing and all consuming or it can be a feeling that grows with time and nurturing.

The writing style is succinct and has short paragraphs to set scenes. Each chapter changes character perspectives which suits the story because it highlights how Heather is a powerful force through people’s lives.

An informal writing style but a very specific layout. The informal style makes the book flow and read easily, while the structure allows for Weiner to project all he wants about the characters in a very short amount of time.

The mood is bleak and ominous throughout the story and this literary device is used to create ambivalence throughout the book. Even the opening line ‘Mark and Karen Breakstone got married a little late in life’ creates ambiguity. Are they one of the lucky ones who found each other or was it through tiredness and desperation that they got together?

Even the setting is a literary device that Weiner has chosen. New York is a dichotomy of wealth and poverty, of opportunity and adversity. The author was successful at fleshing out well-rounded characters in a short amount of time. He highlighted how uncomfortable consequences occur when two dichotomies collide and how it creates upheaval in someone’s simple world.

Being a novella, everything is succinct and this carries through to the book’s ending- short and punchy

I would recommend this book because it’s a deceptively complex story. The characters feel real because you see into their world through eyes which highlights the sometimes depressing realism we have when exposed to their honest thoughts.

What do you think? Would you read this?


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