A Heart Bent Out of Shape – Emylia Hall

20721932“For Hadley Dunn, life so far has been uneventful – no great loves, no searing losses. But that’s before she decides to spend a year studying in the glittering Swiss city of Lausanne, a place that feels alive with promise. Here Hadley meets Kristina, a beautiful but elusive Danish girl, and the two quickly form the strongest of bonds. Yet one November night, as the first snows of winter arrive, tragedy strikes…”

My friend and I read A Heart Bent Out of Shape simultaneously. The verdict was unanimous: we both loved it.

At university, the chance sighting of a pamphlet about a Swiss university changes the course of Hadley Dunn’s life forever. A home girl at heart, Hadley has never considered the idea of leaving her parents and her little brother Sam – until she sees a classmate looking at a brochure for the beautiful-looking L’Institut Vaudois. She makes a snap decision – to apply to study there for a year – and, three weeks later, gets an acceptance letter. And so begins a year studying abroad, in the beautiful country of Switzerland.

Upon arriving, Hadley meets lots of students in the same boat as her, all from different countries. Although the group bond, Hadley finds a particular affinity with a whirlwind girl called Kristina, who is rambunctious, spontaneous – and having an affair with a married man. The two girls immediately become firm friends, but Hadley feels locked out of the one part of her life that Kristina never discusses – her affair with this mysterious Jacques. Hadley becomes increasingly frustrated as Kristina repeatedly disappears at the drop of a hat to spend time with Jacques, and things come to a head when Kristina is late for Hadley’s birthday party. When Kristina phones her mid-party, promising that she is on her way and rushing as they speak – but Hadley’s frustration gets the best of her and she snaps at Kristina. Thinking she can take it all back the next day, she is shocked and horrified when the police arrive at her door. Kristina is dead, killed in a freak accident. Originally the police think she slipped on the snow-covered streets, but later realise that a car hit her and caused her to fall and hit her head. Hadley is left, feeling empty, trying to find out who is to blame for her best friend’s death.

Why did the person who hit Krstina drive off? And who was it? Was it the mysterious Jacques, who Hadley never met? As Hadley desperately searches for the truth, with the aid of an old, crime-writing novelist, whom she meets in a hotel bar, she starts a torrid affair with her teacher, Joel. But their tumultuous relationship is about to be torn apart by a horrible secret…

A Heart Bent Out of Shape is an exquisite novel, full of intricate plot twists, stunning descriptions, and it’s beautifully written to boot. Emylia Hall is a masterful author, and I’ll certainly be getting hold of a copy of her debut novel, A Book of Summers. I have one tiny criticism – that Hadley seems American, rather than English – but it’s a very small gripe about an otherwise flawless novel.

Many thanks to Headline for the review copy. Now, do you guys mind paying for a trip to Switzerland too?

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