Read Strange Heart Beating by Eli Goldstone Online


A darkly funny and seductive novel that confronts the black undercurrent of possession inherent in love, and the impossibility of ever truly knowing even those dearest to us, Strange Heart Beating is a breathtaking debut from an author whose vision is both acerbic and tender.Seb's beautiful, beloved wife Leda has been killed by a swan. With a name like that, with a bizarreA darkly funny and seductive novel that confronts the black undercurrent of possession inherent in love, and the impossibility of ever truly knowing even those dearest to us, Strange Heart Beating is a breathtaking debut from an author whose vision is both acerbic and tender.Seb's beautiful, beloved wife Leda has been killed by a swan. With a name like that, with a bizarre family history like hers, it isn't really surprising. Seb has a grip on her story and its aesthetics; he knows how it should go. Except that he doesn't. Sorting through her belongings after her death, he comes across a packet of unopened letters from a man whom Leda has never mentioned. It is a loose detail in the thread of his narrative that, when pulled, unravels the whole story of his marriage. Who is this stranger who knew her so well? Why did she flee her home village in Latvia? What happened to her as a young woman in London? Who, Seb wonders, was his wife? Floundering professionally and sunk by grief, he decides to travel to Latvia to find her. He is met, instead, with the living ghosts of her past, all of whom knew a fragment of Leda - but none of whom are willing to share their secrets with him.'If the Coen Brothers had a sister, she would likely write like Goldstone, her pen dipped in weird black ink, piquant with fantasies and dread delusion' -- Jewish Chronicle'Overwhelmingly, Strange Heart Beating, with its savage yet comforting undercurrent of a swan as an emblem of the soul reborn, is an ardent examination of loss, framed by multiple cultural allusions' -- Financial Times'What a beautiful, rare thing Strange Heart Beating is -- funny and tender, yes, but so ferocious, sweeping its reader towards wholly devastating realisations' -- Lisa McInerney...

Title : Strange Heart Beating
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781489406590
Format Type : Audio CD
Number of Pages : 307 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Strange Heart Beating Reviews

  • Simon
    2019-03-13 14:41

    After his wife Leda is killed by a swan, Seb heads to Latvia to find out about his wife's past before her knew her after discovering a bundle of letters. With a slight take on the myth of Leda and the Swan, Goldstone creates a haunting tale of grief with tiny sprinklings of myths and folklore. I loved it.

  • Helene Jeppesen
    2019-03-07 16:32

    I didn't much like this story which is a narrative about a widower whose wife drowned after a swan attack. The widower, Seb, obvioulsy feels hollow after his loss, and he decides to go to Latvia to explore his wife's past in order to feel closer to her. This is the debut novel from Eli Goldstone, and while I appreciated the beautiful piece of writing she has produced, it felt too much like a stagnant story told in beautiful metaphors. This is not a book with a lot of action or heavy development. It's more of an exploration of Seb and how he deals with the void his wife has left. Do we really know our spouse that well? Do we always give them our full attention when they're talking? These are some of the questions that are raised in this beautiful, however slow-going tale.

  • Alice Lippart
    2019-02-23 18:29

    The writing is fantastic, but the story sadly loses its way somewhere in the middle. Very good for a debut though.

  • Rebecca Foster
    2019-03-02 16:55

    No doubt about it: the cover and title – from W. B. Yeats’s “Leda and the Swan” – can’t be beat. One day in late March this book showed up on my Twitter, Goodreads and Instagram feeds, and the cover lured me into requesting a copy right away. The elevator pitch is a winner, too: Seb’s artist wife, Leda, was killed by a swan. To be precise, she was boating in a London park and got too close to some cygnets; the parent bird upturned the boat and Leda drowned. The novel is narrated by Seb, an art history professor realizing just how little he knew about the woman he loved. When he takes a break from work to travel to Leda’s native Latvia in search of answers, he even learns that she was known by another name, Leila.It’s as if Seb is running both towards and away from his sorrow:What can I do to find some way back to Leda? I seek for meaning in every miserable glint and shadow … I felt I was starting to lose myself as well. Grief is the aggressive displacement of the self from a known universe to another … I want to bury myself neck-deep in the quicksand of grief.When he gets to Latvia he stays at a guesthouse and communicates with the landlady in Russian. For a week running he meets Leda’s cousin Olaf at his clubhouse each night to drink and play cards, and later bags a boar with Olaf and his hunting buddies. While viewing a fresco in a picturesque church he meets Ursula, who is looking to build an eco-friendly resort to boost the country’s tourism industry. She soon emerges as a potential love interest for Seb.As best I could make out, this is set roughly a decade ago. Interspersed between Seb’s rather aimless travels are passages from Leda’s diary between 1988 and 2005. These reveal her to have been a lonely, bullied youth who took refuge in art and music. If you’re familiar with the myth of Leda and the Swan, you’ll be expecting the trauma in her past. It’s a shame this has to be spelt out in Leda’s final diary entry; it was sufficiently foreshadowed, I think.Ultimately I felt this book had a promising setup but didn’t particularly go anywhere. It struck me as an excellent short story idea that got expanded and lost a good bit of its power along the way. This is a shame, as I was initially reminded of several excellent debut novels with Eastern European elements, especially in the excellent opening sequence about how Leda’s various female ancestors perished (Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated, Rebecca Dinerstein’s The Sunlit Night, and Jaroslav Kalfař’s Spaceman of Bohemia). There could have been a quirky family saga in there had Goldstone chosen to go in that direction.By the end we’ve learned next to nothing about Seb despite his first-person narration, and little of interest about Leda either. I can see how this is meant to reinforce a central message about the unknowability of other people, even those we think we know best, but it creates distance between reader and narrator. You could easily read this 194-page paperback in an afternoon. If you do and find yourself, like me, a mite dissatisfied, never fear – Goldstone is so young and writes so well that I’m confident she will only improve in the years to come.Originally published with images on my blog, Bookish Beck.

  • Kevin Fanning
    2019-02-24 17:41

    This book was one of the most intense reading experiences I have ever had. It is dark and hilarious and wholly original. Eli creates sentences that unexpectedly reveal truths like a terrifying coin trick. She said how many hours do you think there are in the day and how many days do you think we get a chance to live. I don’t know what she’s so scared of as the days are absolutely infinite and who cares how many we’ll see.It's the story of a man named Seb, whose wife, Leda, is killed by a swan. Upon her death he learns that that was not her real name, and that the story of her life as he knew it is not the real story. Seb's journey to learn who his wife really was begins, and takes him from a world of cold, detached intellectualism to a world where there is only feeling, only experiencing, only base responses to external stimuli. How wonderful to me to imagine a flush system that panders to our need to own and to order and to collect events and occasions as if they belong to us. As if we are anything but slack-jawed witnesses to the terrific road traffic accident that is the world, occurring.Eli is a friend and I knew that she could write. But this book is unqualifiedly amazing and I cannot wait for more people to read it.

  • Mel
    2019-03-19 19:43

    Highly uneventful and underwhelming. This book follows a woman named Leda who gets killed by a swan, and her very passionate husband goes to her home country of Latvia to learn more about her. Welllll yeah no. That's vaguely what it's about. I mean that's the perfect description, but he doesn't actually learn anything about her in Latvia. He talks to people, hunts, drinks, talks a lot. Not a lot of learning about his wife. What he does learn isn't very spectacular. The book also leaves off at a point where I would have rathered the book actually START at the end, rather than finish there. I just wanted more. There's a big thing that I kept waiting to be revealed and just so underwhelmed and I don't know. Now that I know everything I learned in the 194 pages, I want the book to actually start. I feel like I read a novella and that now I'd move on to the first book in the series, but alas that is not the case.

  • Paul
    2019-03-01 12:29

    In a freak accident, a swan attacks a small boat, capsizes it and Leda drowns; she was the cherished wife of Seb. Leda was originally from Latvia and even though Seb knows her, he knows very little about her family and upbringing. As he is sifting her possessions he discovers a set of unopened letters addressed to her. Opening them, he finds they are from a man that she has never mentioned and the precious little he thought that he knew about her crumbles to dust. Hampered in moving on by grief and not knowing, he decides that he has to travel to her village in Latvia to find out who she was.Goldstone has written a strange and ethereal tale of sorrow and melancholy. Taking the character Seb at his lowest ebb, she proceeds to unravel all that he knows about his beloved and thrust him into a variety of situations in an unknown land with people who only knew Leda a little. I liked this, but whilst the writing is haunting beautiful, I felt that the plot didn’t have the necessary depth to it especially with the promise posed with the dramatic opening. A good debut, Goldstone will be an author to watch though.

  • Hanaa
    2019-03-07 18:27

    “Who was it that eventually lost his mind after watching a horse being beaten? Every so often I remember this. Nietzsche, obviously. I can’t imagine how one could possibly confirm the veracity of such a thing. Perhaps he was about to fall down mad and a horse happened to be beaten in front of him. This is the sort of thing I ruin dinner parties with.”Same, bro. Same. Strange Heart Beating tells the tale of a grieving widower who loses his wife, Leda, to a swan. Pulling straight from W.B. Yeats’ “Leda and the Swan”, Goldstone explores a grieving husband’s journey to his wife’s home nation and the realization he never really knew her. “Leda and the Swan” is a famous poem that tells the tale of Zeus, who turns into a swan, to rape Leda. The poem uses powerful imagery, such as ‘beating’, ‘great blow’, ‘staggering’ and ‘dark webs’. The poem is truly beautiful, and beautifully written. It is also telling of what to expect from this novel.I remember in 12th grade, where our assignment was to create a short story out of a poem. This was my main strength and I relished in it. We had 30 minutes to conjure up something, and I remember hearing praises from teachers telling me I needed to go to university and study English. I laughed, thinking there’s nothing for me in a Bachelor’s degree in English. Lo and behold, I got a degree in Psychology, and I have nothing to show for it (except for a published work). Funny how life works. I digress. When I heard this was influenced by a poem, I was drawn to this book like a moth to a flame. Hoping it would be a masterpiece, I was a little let down. I believe this would have worked best as a short story as the story began to falter at around the halfway mark. The book is character-driven, which is the type of story I enjoy reading the most; however, there was little intrigue and I began to quickly lose interest in our primary and secondary characters. Goldstone is a wonderful writer, and I am curious to see how she grows and what her future works will be like. I am definitely interested in reading more by her. I would rate this between a 2.5 to a 3.0 out of 5.This book was generously sent to me by Granta. Thank you!!!

  • Resh (The Book Satchel)
    2019-02-27 11:37

    This book caught my attention because of its stunning cover. The book is not one that all readers would enjoy. Those who like Virgina Woolf, First Love or The Sense of an Ending will be able to relate to the book.The story follows a man named Seb whose wife is killed by a swan. As he mourns his wife, he comes across the correspondence between his wife and a man named Olaf. Seb wants to find out who Olaf is and in this process re discover the part of his wife's life that he never knew.I was very invested in the book until the first half. There is a lot of introspection about oneself, life, grief and loss. The latter half is the healing process. Seb is slowly getting out of the tragedy that befell his life. And it did not seem as convincing as the first half.See full review here - Disclaimer : Much thanks to Granta for a copy of the book. All opinions are my own

  • Melanie
    2019-03-19 16:53

    Strange Heart Beating is a gem of a book, the story starting from the unfortunate death of Leda (as her husband Seb knows her) at the hands of a distressed swan. So Sebs dislike of swans begins, understandable really, and his quest to find the real Leda, who was his wife really, what was she hiding? All these questions that he should have known the answers to when she was alive and all the things he's realised he doesn't know about his own wife takes him on a mission to find out anything he can about her. This story of one mans loss and grief and need to know the woman he loved is told in a mesmerising, beautiful, humorous, and quirky way. It shows that we don't really know anyone as much as we think we do, there's always information about ourselves we keep hidden, you'll laugh with Seb cringe with him and cry with him, this really is a marvel of a book and thoroughly deserves the five stars I've given it.

  • Jessica
    2019-03-10 17:26

    This sounds fucking fantastic.

  • Eric Anderson
    2019-03-11 17:51

    Even if it weren’t for the beautiful cover of this debut novel by Eli Goldstone, I’d still have been drawn to reading “Strange Beating Heart” because it’s partly set in Latvia. Some of my ancestors came from Latvia and I still have relatives there, but I’ve not yet visited. So I have a fascination with this location and I’m curious to read literature that’s set there. The story begins with Seb mourning the loss of his young artistic wife who died in a freak lake accident when her boat was overturned by an angry swan. Swans are really the most beautifully graceful looking birds, but they have the worst tempers; I was once chased up a tree by one! It’s striking that Seb’s wife Leda is killed by a swan because in the Greek myth Leda is a Spartan queen who is seduced by Zeus who comes to her in the form of a swan. The symbolism of swans is played out in different ways throughout the novel to express forms of vulnerability, eroticism and shape-shifting. However, this isn’t a fantasy or mythic story, but a poignant realistic tale of isolation, grief and estrangement.Read my full review of Strange Beating Heart by Eli Goldstone on LonesomeReader

  • Samantha
    2019-03-02 15:50

    I loved Eli Goldstone's Strange Heart Beating! It's a novel with contents as beautiful as its stunning cover (which is a rarity). Since it's not available in the U.S. and there's no word on a U.S. release date, I ordered this debut novel from Waterstones, paying over $30 for the book and the international shipping. And it was well worth it! (And it got here exceedingly quickly!) If this is on your to-read list, and you don't live in Britain, I'd recommend doing the same.Strange Heart Beating reminded me of Lolita, which is always a sign that I'm going to love a book. Both novels feature mentally unstable narrators, wordplay, and are exceedingly clever. Strange Heart Beating is about Seb and Leda, a married couple who lived together in London. Seb is made a widower when Leda drowns after a swan overturns her boat. Seb is increasingly preoccupied and obsessed with his wife, to the point where he can't function. So when he finds a packet of unopened letters from Latvia, written by a man Leda never mentioned, Seb decides to investigate her life to get closure. Leda was from Latvia, but never spoke much about her life before moving to England. Seb sets out for Latvia, to uncover the secrets of Leda's youth and to meet the letter writer.The story unfolds from two perspectives. There's Seb's first-person narration in the present, where he recounts his experiences as a widower in the present tense and regales us with memories of Leda from the past. Interspersed with Seb's parts are diary entries Leda kept beginning in childhood. A fascinating dual narrative of grief and abuse unfolds. I loved both narrative voices unreservedly; they are equally strong. Strange Heart Beating offers great character studies of Seb and Leda. It's nice that they both get to tell their stories from their own perspectives. It adds complexity to the story. Seb and Leda are both highly imaginative; one might consider them unreliable narrators. The question arises if Seb and Leda are overly imaginative or if their imaginations are justified because they were brought on by trauma?Strange Heart Beating is sad and deals with harsh realities. Goldstone balances this well by having the novel be very funny. And while it deals with real life, it also manages to have the quality of a fable. Fairy tales are referenced, and the setting of the Latvian forest lends itself to this mood. The novel is rich in symbolism. There are many allusions to art, mythology, and literature. This book is fiercely intelligent, with meditations of death, grief, and relationships. It's about knowing someone and loving someone, and whether we're ever able to do both. In Strange Heart Beating, you get two great portraits of damaged people for the price of one.I really enjoyed Strange Heart Beating and can't recommend it enough. It was my kind of book, from it's subject matter to its humor to its witticisms to its explorations of etymology. I was in love with Goldstone's writing style. She has a unique way of describing things and there are many great descriptions here. Strange Heart Beating reminded me of Atmospheric Disturbances and My Only Wife, so if you're a fan of either of those books, this is probably your kind of book too. Strange Heart Beating is a really different, refreshing, and meditative read.

  • Natalie (weneedhunny)
    2019-03-02 13:49

    Strange Heart Beating follows Seb, a man who has recently lost his wife - she was killed by a swan. As he is moving through his grief and is starting to unravel, he finds a box filled with unopened letters his wife has received from a man called Olaf. Traveling to her native country, Latvia, Seb searches for his wife's past and the woman he never knew - in an attempt to deal with the overpowering sense of Leda, and the sorrow that drowns him. That is the basic premise of Strange Heart Beating. The novel is told in two parallel ways, on the one hand we have a direct narrative through Seb's eyes and his present state. On the other, there are letters or diary entries written by Leda from years past interwoven into the story. As you see her voice from the past and his current self trying to figure out his wife's past and what she ran away from, you as a reader see him closing in on the truth. In Leda's voice you're being told her life's story in a pretty straightforward snippets. In Seb's narrative you see the way the people around her has seen Leda/Leila, the way the men especially have shaped her into the woman who was killed by a swan. The person she is to them and the person she saw herself as isn't quite the same, and that seems to be one of the main ideas explored in this book. Seb is navigating his life through a rationality that comes from his close link to academic life, he works as a teacher at the beginning of the book and he seems to be analyzing the things around him in rather a detached way. While at his wife's funeral for example he seems to be acutely aware of what the right way to act is, how he should act to successfully play the part of the grieving husband, and what to avoid doing. He seems to be viewing himself and others outside of his own body a lot of the time, as he is observing the world instead of being part of it. When he arrives in Latvia the story takes a stranger turn, I thought. It feels like his rationality is slowly slipping away, in a place where dream and reality is blending into one. Is the animals he sees symbols of something or are they true beings? Why is he mesmerized by Olaf, Leila's cousin? What is it in him that draws his attention? In Latvia, Seb meets several people, and it seemed to me only a few of these characters gets any real grounding. They felt more like Seb's hallucinations than true people in the story, that might be partly due to the books brevity. There's also a bit of mythology and fairy-tale themes in this book. For example Seb talks about his reactions to the forests of this small village in Latvia, nature as a wild thing and as something he is afraid of. There's a part that I really liked, in which it seems Goldstone is playing with this idea of women's different experience and place in the world in comparison to men (or to Seb's), and how that shapes our stories, roles, and connection to spaces: "'The wilderness represents a refuge. I've spoken to women here who see the wolves, the trees, as allies. The natural world protects, and the social world destroys'"In general I feel Goldstone has a strong vision and an interesting voice, I liked her way of playing with language sometimes like "the violent sound of an opening" or her drawing on Greek mythology, philosophy and literature. Sometimes I found her writing beautiful, other times poignant; "It was the weight of so many dead women and their heavy heads and their handful of thick, shiny hair". Ultimately I do think parts of the story weren't as developed as I'd like, it felt like parts especially towards the middle and end needed a little bit of expanding, and a further connection between Seb and Leda's narratives is something I think would've given me a stronger emotional connection to the book. In the writing too, there's still places that betrays the debut novelist. I'm not quite sure how to explain it aside from the writer taking the easy way out. It's harder to give an example of this and it might be small things like for instance, Seb finds a lock of hair in the letters addressed to his wife: "a lock of, unmistakably, Leda's hair". How is it unmistakable? What is it about the hair that makes him so certain its hers? What quality is it in the lock that makes it hers instead of someone else, especially because she has received the lock in a letter addressed to her (unopened!), wouldn't it be likely to assume it is the senders hair? This is one such instance where the writer just assumes you're with her, that you're simply going to accept things as they are because that's the way they are. Instead of showing you how something is a certain way, or motivating the actions, words, situations, etc. - to make you believe this is how it is. Another example along similar lines is when Seb is going through Leda's belongings after her death: "I knew that I owed it to her to continue". He goes on to talk about it being a way to keep her alive, existent really, or how someone she knew might want her belongings now that she is dead. But while he is talking about his reasons for doing what he is doing, there's no explanation as to why it would be for her sake - why he owed it to Her rather than owing it to himself or someone else. So instead of being told "he owed it to her" it would've been better to be shown why, in what part of his relationship this idea came about, what part of the letters or other things in the box made him think this. I guess in a way it all bottles down to the difference between being told something is a certain way, and believing it is so. I expect a writer to make me believe rather than just see, to feel rather than to know, and that is what I'm often missing in Goldstone's writing. Having said all that, Goldstone is definitely an author I'll be keeping my eye on. Here it seems is a great writer in the making, as some parts of Strange Heart Beating shone through and showcased an intriguing vision and playfulness, along with pieces of beautiful sharp writing. I'll end this with a last quote (from Leda's entries) that appealed to me on many levels, but again exemplifies the connection to fairy-tales and stories, of navigating the world through pain and fear, and of a little something that really hits home."I can hear it. Every time I close my eyes. I can feel things that aren't there. I am like the princess and the pea. The hundreds of mattresses are the days that I have tried to live, and that I have laid beneath me."

  • Sharon
    2019-03-09 19:42

    What a creative, elegaic little book. Goldstone takes grief and examines how love is about the way we possess one another's moments and histories. Seb's journey in Latvia is both about grief but also about how little we can truly understand another person, even (and perhaps especially) those we are most intimate with. Full of beautiful writing, Strange Heart Beating is a short but intense read.

  • Sam Diss
    2019-02-16 17:29

    Loved it: funny, heartbreaking, the right kind of weird, the right kind of real, painting portraits of a character both empathetic and pathetic, with some lines that will stay with me for a very long time.

  • Claire Fuller
    2019-02-21 15:39

    This is an odd one, but beautiful. Seb's wife, Leda, is killed by a swan. He finds a cache of unopened letters sent to her by her Latvian cousin, and Seb, knowing very little about Leda's Latvian upbringing travels there to find out more. There he is shocked to discover that his wife's real name was Leila, and he meets various odd characters who fail to give him the answers he's looking for. Seb was such an interesting, unusual character, quite hopeless at interacting with people, or getting what he wanted; passive but frustrated. The writing was arresting, and had me marking the text in many places. I don't think I'm giving anything away to say that there are no answers, just oddness, and I really enjoyed that. I don't like a book that wraps things up neatly, but I still felt that it ended too abruptly. On a very pedantic note, Goldstone skips over who the letters were addressed to (the envelopes say, L Kraus). Surely her cousin would have started the letters to Leda as Dear Leila? And so the name change would not have been such a shock to Seb. But that's a tiny niggle in a book I really enjoyed.

  • Petr Mezihorak
    2019-03-02 12:42

    "In short, I acted badly, because the idea that I knew her was so central to my loving her."Každý člověk je záhada. Nemusí nutně střežit nějaké tajemství, možná se jen nechce ohlížet zpět. Třeba proto, že by mu to připomnělo tíživou periferii v jiné zemi, studené moře, prázdné pláže, rozlehlý prostor, ve kterém se cítí osamocen, dětství a dospívání. Vědomí neúplnosti vzájemného poznání je základem silného vztahu. Podlehnutí iluzi, že už toho o druhém víme dost, vztah oslabuje, znásilňuje. Nezbývá než neustále hovořit, nezaručuje to úspěch, blízký člověk může jako zvíře vyrazit proti nám, ale je to jediná cesta. Eli Goldstein napsala příběh, který se odvíjí velmi pomalu, ale přitom je plný pohybu. Čtenář může nabýt dojmu, že se v určité chvíli děj zcela zastavil, je nakonec na něm, jak jej uchopí, ukončí. Autorka jemným, ale silně obrazotvorným jazykem vykreslila atmosféru vzpomínání, zkoumání vzpomínek blízkého již nepřítomného člověka, hledání smíření a porozumění.

  • zuzqaa
    2019-03-18 17:39

    buď som v poslednom čase príliš náročná na knihy alebo som len divná :D tak prvá tretina/polovica bola fajn; páči sa mi štýl a jazyk písania, ale od polky nejak hlavná línia príbehu ustúpila a začala sa venovať iba Sebovi - mužovi, hlavnému rozprávačovi, ktorému jeho žena umrie pri strete s labuťou. ale predsa len, je to prvotina, takže ak Eli vydá niečo ďalšie, pozriem sa na to, lebo písanie má fakt zaujímavé.

  • Tara
    2019-02-20 16:52

    Beautifully written, but it did feel like it should have been a novella due to the overall thinness of the narrative. Worth reading for the writing alone.

  • Varsha Ravi
    2019-03-08 13:35

    2.5/5'I wanted someone at the funeral to tell me about the life she lived before I knew her. In that way, I thought I could continue knowing her, could continue with the journey that we had started. I'd simply take a detour, I thought. I'd go backwards.'I finished reading Strange Heart Beating over the last two days, and I have to say though the writing is gorgeous, the execution of it is far from being perfect. The story starts off with Leda's death when she's attacked by a swan and her boat capsizes in a lake. Seb, her husband, overwhelmed by grief and never truly reconciling with her death decides to uncover every last detail of his wife before he met her, with a compulsive madness. The narrative then moves from London to Latvia where Leda is from. The fervour with which Seb tries to understand his wife's life and the dark undercurrent of obsessive love is the central theme of the story.The narrative moves forward from Seb's perspective but is interspersed with entries from Leda's journal and gradually you glean and piece together her troubled past. Initially, Leda's character is a bit of a mystery, but it starts becoming clearer as the story progresses. You almost feel she has a split personality, the facade she maintains with Seb, and the other from her past contained within the frontiers of her mind.Eli Goldstone is such a skilled writer and her writing brims with honesty, tenderness and moments of razor sharp humour. My issue with the novel is that the latter half meanders significantly sometimes losing the central thread of the story. And in the end your left feeling rather unimpressed by the entire novel.

  • P.D. Dawson
    2019-03-07 17:54

    A strange tale, moments 0f exquisite writing, a stunning debut. The story starts off with a series of deaths, that bring the story to the present, and then we follow Seb as a man who loses his wife at the hands, or should that be, neck, of a swan. The bulk of the story then takes place with Seb trying to better know his wife, even though she is dead. An unusual story that is strangely endearing and promises us that much more will come from this very talented writer in the future.

  • Liisa
    2019-03-03 13:55

    I thought I would adore Strange Heart Beating as it has great reviews, beautiful cover, fascinating title and mystical sounding idea. Unfortunately, I didn´t get it. The prose is gorgeous and the setting intriguing so I´m willing to consider giving Eli Goldstone a second chance, but this story didn´t seem complete nor coherent - it didn´t really leave me with any thoughts at all.

  • Francisco Rapalo
    2019-02-23 18:30

    I give it 4 stars (****) only because Eli Goldstone can write her ass off. She make you cry and laugh in the same page. The story per se is purposeless, just thing happening again and again. I want more creativity the next time, but I still recommend everyone to read the book.

  • Larissa S
    2019-03-06 17:52

    This was really good. The language was beautiful; the characters were odd in a good way; the imagery was definitely something special. I will definitely read Goldstone's work in the future.

  • Ian Mond
    2019-03-15 12:51

    Strange Heart Beating starts with the death of Seb's wife, Leda, who has been killed by a swan. Yes, I know, a woman named Leda killed by swan. To be fair the twee premise isn't the focus but rather the catalyst to a story about a woman who escaped her home in Latvia, changed her name, and married the safest and dullest man she could find. That would be Seb. His discovery that Leda's life before they met was far more complicated and possibly darker than he'd imagined sets him on a journey to discover the truth about his wife.My God I wanted to strangle Seb. He's the epitome of that old trope, made infamous by Woody Allen, the nebbish, who stumbles and bumbles his way through the narrative. The fact that Seb is also Jewish only adds salt to the stereotypical wound. It's not that I want all my male protagonists to be alphas, it's that I find characters who are in a constant state of bewilderment to be fucking annoying. I get that Seb's sad-sack of a persona is a deliberate move on Goldstone's part. As is made abundantly clear, this is a man who never truly knew who his wife was. A man who has a fixed view of reality, especially when it comes to his beloved Leda: "I started to become annoyed when some new fact surfaced. I became convinced I knew all there was to know, and when I was proved wrong, I grew angry. I accused her [Leda] of fabricating things simply to prove to me that she was independent, that she existed without me and my knowledge of her. I refused to believe that she liked Verdi. How can you like Verdi, I asked her (sniffing the open milk carton to see if it had soured), since you’re not an idiot? I interrupted a joke she was telling, by waving my arm between her face and the face of her friend and challenging the premise of the joke, which was that she had once lived in a flat in Walthamstow. I can’t remember what the punchline was. In short, I acted badly, because the idea that I knew her was so central to my loving her. I knew her in a way that I knew nobody else. She, and everything she had ever done, and ever would do, belonged to me as much as it did to her."But that tone, that unearned sense of superiority which only emphasizes how pitiful Seb is, drove me up the wall. I get that people like this exist in the world, that I might see parts of myself in some of Seb's more annoying traits, but spending extended time in the head of this desperately clueless, inflexible and annoying man was a hard grind. So why did I keep reading? Because it's not all about Seb. Throughout we get Leda's perspective, going back in time to when she was a child, her relationship with her mother and cousins. The writing here is honest, raw and compelling, more than hinting at an upbringing of abuse, some of it sexual. What also tempered my reaction was Goldstone's sense of humour. The introduction of Ursula, a woman Seb meets unexpectedly in a Church in Latvia (spoiler: they fuck) adds a much-needed breath of fresh cynicism and a dose of observational comedy:Seb: "'I’m afraid she’s no longer with us.’ Ursula: “Where has she gone?’ ‘Oh, she’s dead.’ Ursula’s eyes widen and she crosses her arms and sits back on the pew. An errant droplet figures its way down her narrow, angular face and sits in the crease between her nose and cheek. ‘Why not just say that, then? You’ve made me look insensitive.’ ‘I think it’s an English thing.’ ‘Of course, it is! What did you say? She’s no longer with us? It makes me think, oh she’s visiting family or something. Then you say she’s dead. I know many different languages and there are always games with them that only native speakers play. The trouble is, the games are usually about the most important things. Sex and death. Always people want to skip past the subject or dress it up so it’s unrecognisable. The only English way I know to say that somebody is dead is that they passed away. Couldn’t you have said that?’ ‘I hate that phrase.’ ‘Oh, me too! It’s so peaceful, like putting paper inside an envelope. I won’t pass away, that’s for sure. I’ll make a lot of noise. I’ll roll around in my coffin. It will be like a pinball machine, extremely irritating.’"Strange Heart Beating, sadly, isn't about Ursula. When we're not reading about Leda's less than ideal childhood we are left with irritating Seb. Given the buzz the book received before and after publication this hasn't been a problem for most readers. Personally, if I never read another book featuring a nebbish it will be too soon.

  • Evinrude
    2019-02-23 18:31

    Sometimes it is about reading the right book at the right moment. Strange Heart Beating is beautifully written, and reads easily even though the plot is not in a rush of going anywhere. Seb, recenty widowed and griefing, embarks on a trip to Latvia to get to retrospectively know his late wife, and the life she shed before moving to the UK. The story is laced through with allusions to mythology and symbolism, which usually annoy the hell out of me, but here felt well-paced and subtle enough.As I was reading, I realised I haven't read many books written by a woman from the perspective of a man. Somehow, I though the potrayal of masculinity that emerges from the book - hurt and restless - was quite perceptive.

  • Sarah
    2019-02-26 18:41

    GAH. What is this? A book, a very well written book, that I just accidentally finished in two hours. I didn't mean to - I meant to just read the first few pages. It's something I do when I am deciding what to read next, what story feels right to dip into at the moment. Next thing I knew I was on my way to Latvia, following Seb, meeting Agnes and Olaf and the strange Georgs. I was caught up. I was carried away. But then? Then it was over. And I never saw it coming. And I paged back, and forward, and back again, thinking, "Um. WHAT?" For that reason, I give it 3 stars. I would give it four, but it was so frustrating, so unsatisfying, to get to the end and not know much more than I did at the beginning. Grawr.

  • Michelle
    2019-02-20 12:39

    i loved the first 60 pages of this book so much i honestly wanted to cry. and then it just... fizzled out. i ended up not being particularly into the structure, characters OR the eventual plot, which was disappointing to me. it felt underdeveloped in some aspects.on the other hand, it reminded me of last tango in paris in a weird way. this, too, felt like it was trying to show me that we as humans exist together but rarely, if ever, actually get to know each other and live in our own self-centered self-indulgent separate bubbles instead. the irony and humor sprinkled throughout the book make it all the more bleak.

  • Simon
    2019-02-21 16:34

    I am beginning to lose faith with the Times Literary Supplement. How this novel got into the TLS never mind earned a positive review is puzzling. Plot and character so thin you could see through them, in places quite awful prose that read like something between a business report and a scientific paper. Abject and clumsy use of symbols and metaphor and an epistolary structure so loose I was embarrassed. Give this one a wide berth particularly when its shortlisted for next years Mann Booker :-)