by Nora Ephron

Critical Evaluation

“Heartburn” is a comic novel, written in the first person, about cookbook author Rachel Samstat. In almost every way, Rachel resembles Ephron. It is a withering revenge novel that follows one of her most Instagramable, tote-bag-worthy dictums: “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” With “Heartburn,” Ephron reaped artistic and financial hay from the heartbreak of her second marriage. Others have followed her lead ever since.

“Heartburn” is a Washington novel and a Washington Post novel: It’s based on Ephron’s explosive breakup with legendary Post Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, who had an affair with the wife of the British ambassador when Ephron was many months pregnant with her and Bernstein’s second child. References to The Post, including the Style section, are peppered throughout. To some readers, “Heartburn” is barely a novel. It’s a monologue, a diatribe, a roman à clef deployed with heat-seeking barbs.”

Heller, Karen. “Nora Ephron’s novel ‘Heartburn’ still scorches 40 years later.” The Washington Post. February 23, 2023.


First Excerpt

“Nothing like mashed potatoes when you’re feeling blue. Nothing like getting into bed with a bowl of hot mashed potatoes already loaded with butter, and methodically adding a thin cold slice of butter to every forkful. The problem with mashed potatoes, though, is that they require almost as much hard work as crisp potatoes, and when you’re feeling blue the last thing you feel like is hard work. Of course, you can always get someone to make the mashed potatoes for you, but let’s face it: the reason you’re blue is that there isn’t anyone to make them for you. As a result, most people do not have nearly enough mashed potatoes in their lives, and when they do, it’s almost always at the wrong time.”

Second Excerpt

“Vera said: ‘Why do you feel you have to turn everything into a story?’
So I told her why:
Because if I tell the story, I control the version.
Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.
Because if I tell the story, it doesn’t hurt as much.
Because if I tell the story, I can get on with it.”

Go to Top