After spending most of her adult life abroad, Sylvia Garland's return to England is shrouded by grief. Following the death of her husband, Roger, she travels back to a London she no longer recognises, ready, at the age of 65, to build a new life for herself. When her son, Jeremy, and his wife, Smita, announce that they are going to have their first child, Sylvia finds herself filling the void left by the death of her husband with excitement about her future grandson. However, the birth of Anand only brings further strain to a difficult family relationship, highlighting Sylvia's own shortcomings as a mother.
By shifting the narrative voice between the three main characters, Helen Harris manages to convey the difficult compromises and negotiations around which family relationships are built, and the devastating consequences when these go wrong. Through her controlled prose, she skilfully portrays the cultural and generational differences between her characters, drawing readers into their deepest hopes and desires. The voice of Sylvia is particularly effective, with her comments about the quirks of modern British life providing a welcome source of humour throughout the novel.
Sylvia Garland's Broken Heart is a sensitive portrayal of the complexities of modern family life. The characters are convincing and the plot has enough to keep readers engaged until the final page. This absorbing reflection on the joys and sorrows of marriage and parenthood comes highly recommended.