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Picks and Pans Review: Heartburn

updated 05/02/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/02/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Nora Ephron

The author of such felicitous essay collections as Wallflower at the Orgy, Ephron was married for three years to Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein; they split in 1979 under circumstances that won't be a mystery much longer, if they ever were. This thinly veiled personal story—Ephron's first novel—is about a woman author who is seven months' pregnant with her second child when her husband, a Washington columnist, falls in love with a D.C. socialite. (Ephron's second son, born prematurely, as is the second child in the book, was seven weeks old when she left Bernstein, then reportedly having a dalliance with Margaret Jay, the wife of the former British Ambassador.) Ephron tries to be bright about it all—the husband is portrayed as a perfidious jerk, but she strains to mention his good points too. Her central theme seems to be reflected in her response to a friend who says, "I feel terrible." The heroine replies, "Don't you dare steal feeling terrible from me." Let's all allow Nora to feel terrible in public and pay her $11.95 to do it. Even when the book is funny, it is bitterly so; reading it is like watching someone try to tell a joke while gnawing a knuckle. (Knopf, $11.95)

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