Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Heart Specialist - Claire Holden Rothman

The Heart Specialist
by Claire Holden Rothman
Oneworld Publications, 2011

Review by Ramona Wadi

This novel is replete with social expectations in the background of the 1900's. Agnes White's ambition to study medicine is in contrast with the norms of the era, but so is the narration of her life. Dissecting squirrels at a young age and the aim to follow in her father's footsteps sets her apart from a family that is more accepting of their role in that particular era.

Memory, time and society are woven into a single narrative that entices readers to think about questions that waver in mind since the first pages of the book. A collection of preserved hearts, a heart treasured above all others, a name that becomes the objective of a significant journey to embrace a fragment of Agnes's past. Relationships seem to veer towards a memory - Agnes and her father before an abandonment which she is unable to decipher, and cloisters the memory into the confines of adoration.

There is gracefulness in a narration that is at once historical and practical, contradictions that seem perfectly normal for enthusiasts in the medical sphere and a little crowd of people that matter, despite doubt, despite the uncertainties that hinder Agnes from assuming a sure recognition of her past.

A persistent question remains until the end of the book, and perhaps makes its way beyond the epilogue. In a story woven around the study of human hearts, is it legitimate to seek a past that another has intentionally vowed to conceal?

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