Susan Howatch- The Heartbreaker

the heartbreaker

What it’s about:

This is the story of high class ‘leisure worker’ Gavin Blake.  On the surface, Gavin has everything he could ever desire.  Money, glamour and the adulation of every woman he meets.  In general, Gavin has mastered emotional detachments from his clients, however his encounters with Richard Slaney seem to remind him of a life he had lost.  This seemingly transient connection quickly spirals, and brings Gavin into the realm of Carta Graham through her work at St. Benet’s.  Consistent confrontations with a different reality, forces Gavin to question a number of beliefs he’s long taken for granted, and in doing so indirectly put him in grave danger.

What I Love:

  1.  We gain a much clearer insight into the character of Elizabeth Mayfield and the world she inhabits.  As with most of Howatch’s work (all those I’ve read anyway), all the novels are stand-alone but interlinked, and the Heartbreaker provides answers to many of the questions raised by The High Flyer.
  2. The complexities of the relationships between the characters.  As is the case in life, the relationships in Howatch’s work are multidimensional, fraught and as challenging as they can be rewarding.
  3. The way that Gavin himself adopts different identities as a coping mechanism.  Whilst the discrepancies between his personas are extreme, many people struggle to consistently display their authentic selves.  Taking as given the notion that a truly unified personality is what we must all strive for, Howatch magnifies this very human tendency within Gavin’s character to illustrate the potential dangers this presents.

My Favourite Quotes:

  1.  “If I had stayed at home that evening I would have moped, wept and drunk too much in an orgy of anxiety and depression, but fortunately I had been saved from all this rubbishy behaviour because my friend Alice needed me.”
  2. “We swivel, we swoop, we sweat, we lunge, we twirl.  We’re wonderful and everyone knows it.  The other couples melt away.  The blokes in the band are smiling.  The waiters have stopped serving.  The punters are goggle-eyed.  There’s never been such a performance of ‘In The Mood’, never.  It’s Saturday night at the Savoy, it’s Saturday night at one of the greatest hotels on earth, and Susan and I are special, we count, we matter- and never more so than at this moment when we’re living out something that’s more than just our own truth.”
  3. “It’s painful to be trapped in the wrong life, as you yourself well know.  It stifles the spirit when you lead an inauthentic existence, out of tune with the person you really are.  Indeed, the person you really are becomes crushed and maimed.”

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