HOW TO STOP A
HEART FROM BEATING
I have been recommending this book to all and sundry.
It is beautifully crafted, introduces a cast of believable
and interesting characters, has an intriguing plot, plenty of
humour and a most unexpected ending.
How to Stop a Heart from Beating is one of those rare
novels which leaves you satisfied but still wanting more.
Yes, that combination is possible. Somehow, Ballantyne, an
Australian now living and working in Dunedin, has captured
exactly the nuances and language of family life in
sleepy-hollow New Zealand circa 1960s.
Her central character, the endearing 9-year-old Solange, is
the middle child between two sets of twins and a loner
comfortable in her own world. When she visits the local
cemetery and finds out there are people buried in unmarked
paupers' graves - which she mishears as ''porpoise graves'' -
she decides to give each grave occupant a story, a time of
death and a reason for their death.
As Solly concocts her stories, the secrets engulfing her
family unfold around her. Being only 9 she cannot unravel
them all, and her innocence and coping mechanisms for what is
happening gives this book much of its charm.
The book is set in South Otago. I immediately pictured the
location as Owaka, and Jack's Blowhole as the site of the
ominous ''spinny pools''. And I could clearly visualise
Solly's family's seaside crib with basic ablutions and
numerous home-made additions.
How to Stop a Heart from Beating would make a terrific
movie. By the time I had finished reading it I had cast
almost all of the characters - Solly, her older brothers and
their friends, Mum, Doug, Aunty Lal, Maggie, the delightful
Mrs Gorsey and, of course, misunderstood Reg.