The Breaking

Published in hardback by Phoenix House (Orion) in May 1997
Republished in a new edition with new forward by Allen & Unwin in May 2021

– Shortlisted for Scottish Writer of the Year
– Longlisted for Orange Prize



‘The Breaking is a book of opposites: rural heat, city rain; male power and female powerlessness; paternal tenderness and a lover’s violence; silences and singing. This strong first novel is remarkable for its depiction of a family drama played out in an arid small town, with the local lock-up in the backyard, and Sarah Sweet’s slow education in love and change, courtesy of a glowing, nail-biting taxi driver.’

– Scottish Writer of the Year Judging Committee

‘Powerful and accomplished…. Heyman reveals her pedigree as a playwright and poet in stunning language and original imagery…profoundly moving.’

– The Scotsman

‘Haunting … compelling … the magnetism of a violent man is made palpable.’

– The Times

‘Fizzes with childhood energy, frustration and hilarity…. Heyman’s words and style leap at you with real punch.’

– Scotsman Weekend

‘Astounding … a writer of immense promise.’

– Sunday Tribune

‘A pleasure…. this is a novel which never betrays its promise. The rawness of the emotion and the beauty of its conveyance into words is a potent combination which will not easily be forgotton.’

– Australian Book Review

‘Gripping…. Heyman’s poetic style adds an extra dimension to this gripping tale.’

– Belfast Telegraph

‘Vivid and assured…. Lyrical and powerful.’

– Midweek Magazine

‘An award-winning poet, Kathryn Heyman writes with an ear for the music of the page… Heyman’s ear for the exact sound gives her prose a vigour that might otherwise get lost in its often sombre tone. Heyman mentions facts about characters after the event or the action that resulted from those facts. For instance, when near the end of the novel we first hear the full name of Sarah Sweet’s sister, you have the sensation of eavesdropping on the family. Because the novel is structured around sounds, it achieves emotional effects from the accumulation of odd moments that subtly click together. The writing makes a demand on the ear that forces the eye to slow down. … its magic lies in the way it affirms the power of anger by showing just how destructive it is to hold back from living fully.’

– Ecclectic