Notes on Heartbreak by Annie Lord
Review by Natalie Beckett In Notes on Heartbreak, Lord writes about conversations with her mum, chats with old friends, the embarrassing things she once said to a boy in a nightclub and the charming story she told a different boy on a first date that wasn’t meant to be a date. But mostly, Lord writes about the moments she shared with a boy named Joe, whom she dated for five years in her early twenties. Through moments in time Lord builds the story of two people falling in and out of love and everything that happens in between.
Whilst Lord's experience is undoubtedly unique, heartbreak is universal. So naturally, throughout the book I’m constantly faced with things I resonate with because I’ve experienced them and so have my friends, their friends, my mum and her mum and that girl that I sat next to on the tube yesterday. You get the picture. This universality, accompanied by Lord’s unguarded tone and fitting quotes from other writers, make the book so digestible. As soon as you find the first ‘“No way! That happened to me!” moment’ you turn the page to find out what your next shared experience will be with the author.
While reading this book I have one recurring thought: Lord is giving heartbreak the justice it deserves. Thirty-five chapters of justice. Broken down into four parts: Salt, Skin, Fog and Concrete, Lord gives us the full lowdown on how to mend a broken heart, never shying away from the sometimes cringe-worthy details. I admire her candour and courage as a writer. In the acknowledgements she thanks her ex for not suing her and I’m tempted to compare her work to Nora Ephron, mentioning something about how everything is copy, but it feels overdone.
As Lord pours over old emails; becomes obsessed with getting his stuff out of her bedroom and starts talking about her ex on first dates, she accurately depicts what Kylie was talking about when she said “I just can’t get you out of my head,” whilst also normalising the lasting impact that first love can have on a young person. Breakups are seen as part and parcel of being young. So, when they happen to those around us, we encourage friends to move on, start dating again and make a profile on Hinge. After six months, we say they need to get over it. Lord is changing this narrative, recognising the complexity of falling in love with someone before you have established who you are as a grown adult. She writes, “I didn’t know who I was going to be when this person, who contributed so much to my composition as a human, disappeared.” In a recent episode of the Honey & Spice Sessions with fellow author Bolu Babalola, Lord admits that in her next relationship she will keep more to herself. I’m reminded of when she writes, “I’m glad that he made me who I am, I’m glad that I’ve been left alone to be her too.”
If you’re going through heartbreak and need a firm reminder that you are in fact not losing your mind, or you just want to read some great writing about young love, go and read this book. It’s brilliant.
Why Did You Stay? A Memoir about Self-Worth by Rebecca Humphries
Review by Arabella Petts
A validating and empowering memoir, Why Did You Stay? is Humphries’ story of her relationship with her partner, referred to only as “Him” throughout the book.
When paparazzi caught him kissing his Strictly Come Dancing partner, she realised the gaslighting she’d experienced during their time together was just that. Turning down offers from the papers to tell her side of the story, she instead posted a letter on Twitter sharing her experience of the last five years and offering advice for women who were experiencing exactly what she’d just escaped: a toxic, oppressive relationship. The tweet went viral and a stream of support poured in, but amongst the praise was one simple question with a far more complex answer – “If he was so bad, why did you stay?”
With chapters alternating between why she stayed and why she left, it shows how skewed your perspective of a relationship can be when you’re in it and how easily “lines can be crossed” if you don’t keep a strong sense of self-worth. The two sides allow the reader to reflect on their own relationships. She also visits other formative relationships with men; going back to her adolescence and looking at her teenage years, telling us how those issues have affected her in adulthood.
Even coming from traumatic origins, she manages to create a humorous and creative read, stepping away from typical self-love stories and giving an insightful and important analysis of toxic relationships. Telling a powerful story, it’s clear that Humphries only wants to help others and isn’t afraid of the backlash she may face.
An age-old question given to those in toxic relationships, Why Did You Stay? takes that question and owns it.