Breaking Hearts was published by Faber in 1997.
Dr Helena Twiscombe is a fat, middle-aged, alcoholic university professor with a passion for Dickens. Her niece, Sissy, comes from Australia to visit. These are the only verifiable facts in the novel. The main body of the book is the supposed writings of one of Dr Twiscombe’s ‘grateful’ students, where the ‘student’ (female) appears to have seduced Dr Twiscombe’s niece, caused another inadequate teacher to commit suicide and generally wreaked emotional havoc amongst students and staff at the university. However, it becomes clear that these `writings’ and the ‘student’ are the product of Dr Twiscombe’s imagination as she slides into a nervous breakdown.
Some quotes from the published edition:
“This book is NOT richly erotic, as the publishers claim. On the contrary, it is aggressively pornographic, revelling in images of perversion and corruption. It deliberately sets out to be offensive on all fronts, not just the sexual, but also the political and the educational, and it succeeds. If I believed in censorship — unfortunately I do not — I would have it banned. It is a cruel invasion of privacy.”
Helena Twiscombe, professor Emeritus, University of London.
“I blame the tabloids and television, in collusion with envious and ambitious colleagues, for what they choose to call my ‘disgrace’. This odious book is an example of the kind of thing I had to put up with while struggling to fulfil my pastoral duties as Dean of Students. As soon as my time is my own again, I shall take legal action against the author and its publishers.”
Breaking Hearts is published in the following edition:
Breaking Hearts (Faber and Faber 1997 ISBN 0-571-24144-6)