Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Believers by Zoe Heller



  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Genre: Literary Fiction
  • Publisher: Penguin Books 2009
  • Source: Charity Bookshop in UK. 
  • First Sentence : ‘At a party in a bedsit just off Gower Street, a young woman stood alone at the window, her elbows pinned to her sides in an attempt to hide the dark flowers of perspiration blossoming at the armholes of her dress.
  • Review Quote : ‘Funny moving  and very very true. a brilliant, brilliant book’ – Daily Mail.
  • My Opinion: A compelling read.


    This is the first novel by this author that I have reviewed here as the previous one I read was Notes on a Scandal (2003) in 2004 before I started this Book Review Blog.  I was surprised that this novel is very different in style to the last one, a trait I always admire in authors that are brave enough not to just reproduce a winning style in their writing.  I think The Believers is just as good if not better than Notes on a Scandal and I do not hesitate to recommend both of them.

    The novel is set in 2002, over a period of about eight months, but to set the scene when the novel opens it is forty years previously and the protagonist Audrey Howard meets Joel Litvinoff, the man who will become her husband at a party.  A whirlwind romance with Joel, fourteen years her senior leads her to follow him from London where they met to New York in order to become his wife.  Fast forward forty years and Audrey and her three grown up children are forced to revaluate their lives when Joel a radical successful lawyer suffers a stroke.  Over four decades their family life developed in line with Joel’s ambitions to fight social injustices and they appear to live a very liberal lifestyle. After his stroke though the enormous cracks in this lifestyle come to the surface as Audrey, her daughters Rosa and Karla and their adopted brother Lenny all have to face their own demons.  As they struggled to decide what they each personally believed in I found that although I did not really like any of them, I still became involved in their relationships. For me it was a compelling read that was both funny and poignantly sad.

    Zoë Kate Hinde Heller was born in north London on 7 July 1965, she is an English journalist and novelist.

    She  studied English at St Anne's College, Oxford, and then went on to Columbia University, New York where she received an MA in 1988. Zoe Heller began her career in journalism, as a feature writer for the Independent on Sunday in the UK. She later returned to New York to write for Vanity Fair and then the New Yorker. She also wrote a weekly column for the Sunday Times magazine in the UK. She currently lives in New York with her two daughters. Her three published novels are

    Everything You Know (1999), Notes on a Scandal (2003), which was one of six books shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2003 and made into a film in 2006, and The Believers ( 2008).

  • Zoe Heller talking about her writing and  ‘The Believers’ which I found very interesting as she mentions writing about unlikeable characters!

  • Uploaded by Harper1817 on Feb 2, 2009


  • Information for this post is with thanks to the following websites.     

  • Wikipedia - Zoe Heller

  • You Tube - Zoe Heller

  • Goodreads - Zoe Heller


    1. I've been meaning to read something by this author for awhile. You've encouraged me to actually add her to my TBR list.

    2. Melissa@ That is great as I think you will enjoy her writing from what I know of your taste in reading.

    3. Greetings from the Amish community of Lebanon,Pa. Richard from Amish Stories.

    4. I read this one when it was first published and loved every page. I really enjoyed the lead character, despite how awful she was. Loved Nots on a Scandal too and keep meaning to watch the film.

    5. I have overlooked this book. I think I will have to check it out.

      Nice review, LindyLouMac


    6. I haven't read anything by this author but will keep an eye out for her work at my library. Great review!

    7. Amish Stories@ Greetings. :)

      Anne@ Audrey was dreadful wasn't she!

      DizzyC@ It is definitely worth reading.

      Teddyree@ Thankyou, she is an author I think you will find well worth reading.


    I indulge my love of books with this blog and it makes it all worthwhile when you leave comments. I really am interested in what you think so do let me know. I have decided as the nature of this review blog makes for conversation in the comments, just to reply here and not individually, so please subscribe to comments or call back again to stay in the conversation. Thankyou for your continued support.