Their love is against the laws of a merciless state―but the heart has its own power
The Law of the Heart
[ About the Book ]
For rollercoaster designer Theo, living on the edge is just part of the job. He’s used to wandering the world perfecting thrills, his heart immune to commitment. But then a commission in repressive North Korea exposes him to emotions he’s never dared to feel.
Tour guide Min has a soul that wants to soar, but she knows it ’s safer to build walls around her heart and mind. Skilled in showcasing the mesmerising beauty of capital city Pyongyang without revealing its darker secrets, she introduces Theo to a country he will never forget―and begins to question her policy of quiet compliance.
But forgetting―or pretending to―is the key to survival for Min’s formidable grandmother Cuckoo. After a devastating heartbreak years ago, she learned that passion and oppression just don’t mix. As Min and Theo grow closer and long-held secrets come to light, all three are forced to confront emotions they’ve tried to suppress. In a country where following their hearts will put them in danger, how much are they willing to risk?
[ My Review ]
The Law of the Heart by bestselling and acclaimed author and screenwriter Boris Starling was just released with Lake Union Publishing August 1st. Clare Pooley, blogger and New York Times bestselling author is quoted as saying that The Law of the Heart is “a heartbreaking yet life-affirming story of forbidden love woven through the extraordinary backdrop of North Korea. I loved everything about it.” I am absolutely delighted to be joining the blog tour today, in conjunction with FMcM Associates, and am honoured to have been given the opportunity to read such an outstanding and extremely affecting novel.
What do you know about North Korea? What perception do you have of its population? What do you understand about the day-to-day life for anyone living under such a strict regime? I will admit to knowing very little indeed, only what I see on social media and the news channels. In The Law of the Heart Boris Starling takes the reader on quite a remarkable journey into the lives of one North Korean family, primarily through the eyes of the daughter, Min, and Theo Kempe, an award-winning rollercoaster designer.
There is a huge amount of research underpinning this novel, with Boris Starling saying that ‘it’s so easy to view the country simply through the narrow lens of the twin prisms of brutal dictatorship and/or Ruritanian personality cult, whereas in fact it is of course in many ways a country like any other, and its citizens all have their own hopes, fears, loves, challenges.’ Filled with vivid descriptions of Pyongyang and the surrounding areas, Boris Starling brings North Korea, in particular its people, very much to the forefront and alive to the reader.
Min is a tour guide, and her job is to ensure that all visitors experience an informed and educational trip, while also being made aware of the limitations on their freedom while travelling within North Korea. Min sits in on regular staff meeting where all transgressions are aired and each member of staff willingly offers up any slight or wrongdoing, however insignificant. Their dedication to their leader, and to the law, is incredibly depicted by Boris Starling. The compliance of all is never taken for granted. One slip up and people receive their punishment accordingly. What are considered larger infringements can result in a disappearance. Everyone knows the rules. Everyone abides by them. When Min is required to look after Theo Kempe she is appalled. Looking after a foreigner, an American/English man, is most certainly not what Min wants to do. She is deliberately chilly in Theo’s company but as the days pass, she begins to question her life and her willingness to comply and obey. Her eyes are opened and her world changes in ways she could never have imagined.
Theo comes to North Korea underwhelmed by this strange country and its obedient people. At one point he compares Pyongyang to ‘The Capitol’ in The Hunger Games series of books by Suzanne Collins. If you have read those brilliant books, you will immediately understand this comparison. His initial reaction is to run, head straight back to the airport and go back home. But where is home for Theo? And what is he running back to? He decides to embrace this time in North Korea and, along the way, discovers more about himself and about a society that is filled with individuals who do hope, who do dream and who do love….
Min’s grandmother, Cuckoo, is a gorgeous character with an extremely moving story to tell but she keeps her secrets to herself. There is an unbreakable bond between Cuckoo and Min, and, at times, she shares snippets of her past, but for Min’s ears only. Cuckoo has lived a tragic life in many ways and slowly her history is revealed to us as the chapters open out.
Don’t be fooled by thinking that The Law of the Heart is a traditional feel-good romance set against a tyrannical establishment, because it is not. This is a very realistic story that will anger, upset and frustrate every single reader but it will also make you smile. As Min explores her own private thoughts and Theo witnesses the impact any relationship between them could have on Min, there is constant mental turmoil. Every action has a reaction but how much risk are they willing to take?
As a screenwriter himself, I am hoping that Boris Starling has set his sights on the screen for this beautiful book. The Law of the Heart is a truly exceptional reading experience. I was completely enamoured by both the people and the prose. With striking imagery, Boris Starling has captured something very unique, something very memorable. The Law of the Heart is a remarkable exploration of humanity in all its guises. It is treat for all to read and it will leave an indelible mark on every reader.
[ Bio ]
Boris Starling is an award-winning author, screenwriter and journalist who has appeared on the Sunday Times bestseller list for both fiction and non-fiction. He has written seven crime novels, five full-length nonfiction books (including, as a ghostwriter, the autobiography of British and Irish Lions rugby captain Sam Warburton) and twenty shorter nonfiction books.
He created the Messiah TV series, which he adapted from his first novel and which ran for five seasons on BBC1. His other screen credits include The Kid, The Defector and Blood Over Water. He lives with his wife, children, greyhounds and chickens in West Dorset.
Twitter ~ @vodkaboris