Book Review: Everything You Know by Zoe Heller

Title: Everything You Know
Author: Zoe Heller
Publisher: Picador USA
ISBN: 978-1-250-00374-4
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 203
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

There is always a good time to take you out of the reader’s block situation and for me that book in the recent past was “Everything you Know” by Zoe Heller. I remember the one and only book I had read by her earlier – Notes on a Scandal, which I was enthralled by. The writing style, the setting and the plot of the book was beyond great.

Zoe Heller’s book, “Everything you Know” is actually the first one written by her and I was not surprised by the beauty of the language at all. It just gave me an idea of the lucidity that came through in Notes on a Scandal. Everything you Know is about Willy Muller and his life. Willy Muller is an unusual character, someone who you might meet and stop and think about. He could be distasteful and yet he is just like you and I in most ways.

Willy Muller is recuperating from a heart attack in Mexico, and trying very hard to write a script of a celebrity’s memoirs – the writer’s block emerges and he cannot write. His girlfriend Penny, one of the plastically enhanced women and not too bright, is with him. One fine day he receives a call from his sister in England, informing him that their mother is dead. He rushes to England and the ghosts of the past haunt him all over again. Willy had to leave England with a bad reputation of being indicted for killing his wife in a domestic fight. He appeals and is set free. His daughters think he was responsible for their mother’s death. The second daughter commits suicide and leaves a diary. But of course Willy reads it and his life begins to unravel – one piece at a time. His answers and his questions merge and he wonders more, seeking answers, finding a way to live.

It is not easy to write a novel of this kind and accommodate everything in less than 300 pages. The writing is in your face and doesn’t let up for a single bit. Knowing the plot, it is depressive at times, but a fantastic read. Zoe Heller uses her craft very intelligently – without giving away too much and making readers think for themselves.

This is just one example of her superlative writing: “If I am a shit, I used to tell myself defiantly in those days, so be it.”

Zoe Heller has a linear style of writing. The jumping of past to present and back is sometimes overwhelming but works for the plot in most ways. The dialogues are perfectly tuned to the plot, the supporting characters play their part when needed fantastically and the plot is something else – from madness to crime to getting a grip on reality. Everything You Know is a great read that tells a lot about the human condition and the answers we seek, when sometimes they are right there in front of us.

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