The Mechanics of the Heart: Synopsis, Summary, Review & more

Discover in this article “The Mechanics of the Heart” an interesting novel by Mathias Malzieu, who gives us characters full of fantasy, which will be part of a touching and splendid romantic work.

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On a stormy night, one of the coldest nights of the 19th century, Jack is born with a broken heart and a fragile body. His worried midwife decides to place a watch on his chest, clinging to the hope that she can keep him alive. His mother, like many others, leaves the burden of bringing him up in the midwife’s arms. A care that is sometimes extended to families who want a child but cannot conceive.

For a long time he remained in the midwife’s home, waiting for someone to adopt him, but he did not arouse the slightest interest. He is rejected because of the watch that still keeps him alive and his weak appearance. Madeleine, the woman who gave birth to him, is very fond of him and talks to him constantly about her rules of life, trying to keep his weak heart free of strong emotions.

Jack continued to grow and his desire to know the world could no longer be denied, so he asked Madeleine for permission. His sudden interest was to get closer to someone he had seen from afar, a beautiful young woman who used to sing. Jack dreams of reaching her and singing those tunes together.

Miss Acacia is her name, big-eyed, she will be the first love of Jack’s life, an unforgettable adventure that will take him from the streets of Edinburgh to the streets of Granada, to Paris. Through this experience he will live through beautiful moments and cruel situations that will show him the mixture of feelings that human relationships involve.

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Book Review

“The Mechanics of the Heart” was published in 2007 by Mathias Malzieu, a French writer. In one of his interviews he said that the inspiration for this work came after he had composed a concept album as a musician, but he never thought that it would have such an effect on readers. This is a book full of love, a fresh and light read.

The author presents love as a noble, pure and sincere emotion, capable of softening the most hardened hearts and encouraging a courageous and healthy feeling. It begins with the birth of a child who seems to have been born without a chance, denied the love of his mother. But this is a past that does not affect him, on the contrary, he often receives and gives love.

With the values, appreciations and teachings of the one who raised him as a baby, he sets out on the adventure of exploring life. To go out, in search of that young woman who makes his heart beat, or rather his watch, a mechanical piece that was placed at birth to help his weak heart, with favourable results, allowing him to live.

Knowing the innocence of love, the quality of other people and the hardness that some people keep, this young man called Jack gives us a vivid and perfect story full of adventures, odysseys and situations in which he gets to know the worst side of some people.

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Summary of The Mechanics of the Heart

Now that you have had a cursory look at The Mechanics of the Heart, we offer you a brief summary of its fourteen chapters, so that you can get to know its passionate story and the combination of words created by its author, Mathias Malzieu.

Chapters 1 to 2

A heavy snowfall covers the streets of Edinburgh and Paris in white. In the month of April, in 1874. In a home for orphaned children, a prostitute gives birth to a baby with a frozen heart with the help of Madeleine, a midwife. It was thought that he would not survive the night, so Madeleine, full of hope and serenity, took a small dumb-bell watch and placed it on the newborn’s heart.

Before dawn, the mother left him, leaving him in the arms of the midwife, who clung to him in the hope of seeing him resist, with the watch as his heart, beating with his breath and the breath of a very fragile child who wanted to live. She named him Jack and left him at her side with the rest of the children in the orphanage. A truly fanciful part of the story of “The Mechanics of the Heart”, but at the same time fascinating and appealing to readers.

Days, weeks and months pass quickly, many people arrive at the orphanage but they reject Jack, they are afraid of him, just by approaching him and hearing the clock ticking on his chest, no one wants him, he has to see how they all start to leave and he is still there. Years go by, Jack has just turned 5, but Madeleine does not put him up for adoption, she understands that he will always be rejected and accepts that he will be part of this home forever.

Jack often asks Madeleine to let him go out into the city, but she avoids him, considering him too young, and teaches him every day not to touch the hands of his watch for no reason, to control his emotions, an advice motivated by the need to protect his heart.

Time passes, Jack is already ten years old, and Madeleine allows him to go to the city; she is nervous about him going out, but she does not refuse him, because she knows that she cannot keep him locked up forever.

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Chapters 3 to 4

He goes to school for the first time and meets many friends, among them he is looking for a beautiful girl he once saw from his window, he discovers that her name is Miss Acacia and although he can’t find her yet, he meets someone who is interested in her. His name is Joe, the typical rough and tough guy who greets him rudely, humiliates and insults him for being a skinny and pale boy.

In “The Mechanics of the Heart”, Mathias Malzieu describes these encounters with great passion and conveys the feeling of rejection that Jack feels. He draws the reader into his emotionally charged paragraphs, describing the evil and cruel side that children of this age can have, who do not yet understand the value of tolerance and respect for others.

It was not a pleasant experience for Jack, as Joe and those who followed him made his days stormy, with no end to the humiliations and insults. On the last day of school, Joe oversteps his bounds, driving Jack mad and provoking a fight in which Jack breaks Joe’s eye.

This confrontation frightened Jack, who confessed everything to Madeleine, who worriedly took his suitcase and asked him to run away so that the police would not follow him and hurt him. He does not escape alone, but with three of his best friends: Anna, Luna and Arthur. A chapter of “The Mechanics of the Heart” in which the emotions are dominated by despair, leaving everything because he cannot control his discomfort.

Chapters 5 to 7

It is from these chapters that the story of “The Mechanics of the Heart” will show the real moments of anguish that Jack will begin to experience. Line by line, we see what he must do to repair the watch, which has been altered by the emotions he has experienced.

Madeleine asks him to find a watchmaker, but to no avail, until he meets someone who suggests the idea of finding a magical watchmaker. It is then that Méliès appears, offers him a viable solution and brings about a significant change in his life, motivating him to embark on a journey. Thus begins a never-ending series of shared adventures.

This interesting journey will lead him to meet the beautiful Miss Acacia, a platonic love from the past. She delights the customers of the Tasca the Extraordinarium with her melodious voice, and it is a very special moment for Jack when he goes to her dressing room after her show, a true moment of idyll that lasts until nightfall.

A pure and true feeling is awakened between Jack and Miss Acacia, they meet in the moonlight, they swear a sincere love and envelop the reader in that enchanting first kiss, a unique and special moment. Until she leans her head on her heart, hears the sound of the clock and panics, pulling away in fright.

Chapters 8 to 10

From this moment on, Jack visits Miss Acacia on several occasions, where he makes her understand that he is not a monster, that he has feelings like everyone else, and that he feels a deep love for her. This series of circumstances helps to understand the true value of human beings in the play “The Mechanics of the Heart”.

Little by little, Miss Acacia returns this love, a relationship that must be kept secret because Joe reappears between them, telling his own version of the story, setting Jack up as a villain and claiming that he is still wanted by the justice system. To protect him, she continues to see him in secret, although she is troubled by a feeling of jealousy that begins to creep in.

Chapters 11 to 14

Jack moves into Méliès’ workshop because of Joe’s constant presence, and their relationship becomes increasingly strained. Angry at every turn, there are many moments of confrontation, until Miss Acacia unexpectedly responds to a fit of rage by snatching Jack’s watch from his chest and screaming at him as a liar.

This is to be one of the most tragic chapters in the story “The Mechanics of the Heart”, an unending agony that Méliès experienced while Jack was still sleeping on his table. He searches for the right clock until, after three years, he manages to wake him up. This is the clear end of a love that ended in tragedy.

Jack goes to see Miss Acacia again, but she does not reciprocate, feeling deceived and betrayed, as she always thought he was dead. She leaves him and walks away, showing Jack an unfortunate reality: she never really loved him.


In several paragraphs of “The Mechanics of the Heart” there are some sentences that are considered by critics to be very eloquent, the author concentrating on giving them a romantic and existential value; among the most important we can highlight the following:

  • The first rule: ‘Don’t touch the needles’, the second two: ‘Master your anger’, and finally number three and apparently the most important of all: ‘Never fall in love’. -Madeleine.
  • I want to take off the romantic bat mask. I want to make love in broad daylight. -Jack.
  • I never thought it would be so hard to keep the person we love and want the most in the world by our side. -Jack.
  • You might try replacing your heart before you replace me with someone else. -Miss Acacia.
  • What makes you different will be your weapon of seduction! -Méliès.
  • It doesn’t matter if you make people laugh or cry, as long as you create an emotion, does it? -Miss Acacia.
  • I cure myself of this lost love with comfort; it’s a sweet medicine that sometimes stings a little, but it allows me to rebuild myself. -Jack.
  • I’d like to go back in time to give you the old junk of my heart and leave it in your arms. -Jack.
  • I keep and cherish his memory as one would a delicate flower. And those memories fill my days. -Jack.

The characters

The fantastic play “The Mechanics of the Heart” will feature several characters, all of whom are directly related to the life of our main character:


A young man born with a frozen heart, abandoned by his mother and brought up in an orphanage. He is constantly teased by those who consider him a freak for having a watch for a heart.

Noble of feeling and innocent of those who take advantage of him, he is unhappy from the moment he enters the world until his slow death, when he discovers in the worst way that his great love has not been reciprocated in feeling.

Miss Acacia

A beautiful girl with big eyes, who loves to sing and dance, totally independent, with a free soul and a brave heart. Determined to get what she wants, with a difficult past but able to stand up to anyone, she professes her love for the protagonist of “The Mechanics of the Heart”: Jack, which grows and fades quickly because she feels betrayed, a detail she will not forgive.


A single woman who devotes herself to raising all the children who come to her door seeking shelter. In charge of the orphanage, she is responsible for bringing Jack to life by placing a clock in his heart. Hence the name of the play, The Mechanics of the Heart, and over the years she becomes his adoptive mother, giving him an overprotective love.


The young man who points at everyone and makes fun of them, a bully who always picks on the weakest, a real headache for Jack. After a fierce fight with him, he loses an eye and leaves town, only to reappear to separate him from his love.


A gentleman in every sense of the word, with the qualities of a watchmaker, but with the skills of a magician. Two skills that serve Jack well, keeping him alive and looking after him. He becomes his companion and best friend.

Film “The Mechanics of the Heart

The film “The Mechanics of the Heart” was released on 17 April 2015, after the author transferred the rights. It was created in 3D animation, a feature that gives a special touch to this fantasy story. It lasts one hour and thirty-four minutes, under the production of Grand Corps Malade, with two locations: France and Belgium.

For many, it has become a charming work of love, suitable for young and old, with less than 200 pages. Mathias Malzieu has left us a precious gift, with exquisite details and a language to fall in love with. Finally, we leave you with this video, in which you can appreciate some scenes from the film “The Mechanics of the Heart”.

We also invite you to read the following links and let yourself be carried away by these outstanding works of literature:

  • La Noche Boca Arriba
  • Pedro Páramo
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
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