Book Review: The Tell-Tale Heart by Jill Dawson 1


The Tell-Tale Heart

Jill Dawson


Barnes & Noble
After years of excessive drink and sex, Patrick has suffered a massive heart attack. Although he’s only fifty, he’s got just months to live. But a tragic accident involving a teenager and a motorcycle gives the university professor a second chance. He receives the boy’s heart in a transplant, and by this miracle of science, two strangers are forever linked.Though Patrick’s body accepts his new heart, his old life seems to reject him. Bored by the things that once enticed him, he begins to look for meaning in his experience. Discovering that his donor was a local boy named Drew Beamish, he becomes intensely curious about Drew’s life and the influences that shaped him–from the eighteenth-century ancestor involved in a labor riot to the bleak beauty of the Cambridgeshire countryside in which he was raised. Patrick longs to know the story of this heart that is now his own.In this intriguing and deeply absorbing story, Jill Dawson weaves together the lives and loves of three vibrant characters connected by fate to explore questions of life after death, the nature of the soul, the unseen forces that connect us, and the symbolic power of the heart.

My Rating:

 3.5 hearts


Favorite Quotes:

“There was a moment when I was cracked open on that bed, emptied.  Rigged up, machines doing my living for me.  Awaiting.  My heart lifted out and somewhere else.  I shouldn’t be alive; I must be monstrous, or magical.  No human being can have their heart scooped out of their ribcage, be without it, while they await another, and live, can they?  It’s inconceivable.”

“Where do Feelings live?  Inside us surely, in our hearts.  Where do they end, where do they stop?  Pa’s feelings sometimes made such a vivid spark in my nature that I believe I shall not forget it in my grave.”


My Review:

I struggled with this book.  The culture and vernacular are not my own and I was often confused and often at sea, unable to comprehend what was transpiring on an entire page.  Thank goodness for Wikipedia!  The story is written from several different POVs, and I am still scratching my head over the ending when they seem to have merged.  Large chunks of the book appear to be written as a stream of consciousness, with incomplete sentences and often flitting from thought to thought, which was sometimes strikingly insightful, sometimes rather brilliant, and sometimes – to me anyway – incomprehensible.  I was, and still am, intrigued by the premise of the story, and the events and characters were of interest to me, I just had a problem with the execution.

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 About the Author:


Jill Dawson was born in Durham and grew up in Staffordshire, Essex and Yorkshire. She read American Studies at the University of Nottingham, then took a series of short-term jobs in London before studying for an MA in Writing at Sheffield Hallam University. In 1997 she was the British Council Writing Fellow at Amherst College, Massachussets.

Her writing life began as a poet, her poems being published in a variety of small press magazines, and in one pamphlet collection, White Fish with Painted Nails (1990). She won an Eric Gregory Award for her poetry in 1992.

She edited several books for Virago, including The Virago Book of Wicked Verse (1992) and The Virago Book of Love Letters (1994). She has also edited a collection of short stories, School Tales: Stories by Young Women (1990), and with co-editor Margo Daly, Wild Ways: New Stories about Women on the Road (1998) and Gas and Air: Tales of Pregnancy and Birth (2002). She is the author of one book of non-fiction for teenagers, How Do I Look? (1991), which deals with the subject of self-esteem.

Jill Dawson is the author of five novels: Trick of the Light (1996); Magpie (1998), for which she won a London Arts Board New Writers Award; Fred and Edie (2000); Wild Boy (2003); and most recently, Watch Me Disappear (2006). Fred and Edie is based on the historic murder trial of Thompson and Bywaters, and was shortlisted for the 2000 Whitbread Novel Award and the 2001 Orange Prize for Fiction.

Her next novel, The Great Lover, is due for publication in early 2009.

Jill Dawson has taught Creative Writing for many years and was recently the Creative Writing Fellow at the University of East Anglia. She lives with her family in the Cambridgeshire Fens.

Jill has a website, and she’s also on Twitter.



One comment on “Book Review: The Tell-Tale Heart by Jill Dawson

  1. Reply trish Feb 18,2015 5:46 pm

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts as part of the tour.

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