Nora Ephron's 'Heartburn': How It Changed The Conversation about Divorce

How Nora Ephron's 'Heartburn' Changed The Conversation About Divorce

Nora Ephron’s novel “Heartburn,” a roman à clef loosely based on her discovery of husband Carl Bernstein's affair and its aftermath, was published in 1982. That same year, the U.S. divorce rate was higher than it had ever been.

Though splits were becoming increasingly common, women were still discouraged from openly discussing their divorce experiences. “I think that men were allowed to write about their marriages falling apart, but you weren't quite supposed to if you were a woman,” Ephron told the Academy of Achievement in 2007 about her experience writing the book. “You were just supposed to curl up into a ball and move to Connecticut."

Ephron, of course, did no such thing. Despite Bernstein's request to keep their personal life private, Ephron used her “Heartburn” protagonist, cookbook writer Rachel Samstadt, to expose the heartbreak -- and the dark humor -- of his affair and their subsequent divorce. Ephron’s willingness to write candidly about her experiences made “Heartburn” especially poignant: Intentionally or not, her book encouraged other women to share their own stories. Without her, would we have writers like Candace Bushnell and Julie Powell?

To honor the way Ephron helped change divorce discourse, we present some of the most memorable quotes from the novel.

Clarification: This post initially mentioned Erica Jong, whose career preceded Ephron's.

Go To Homepage

MORE IN Divorce