Archive for August 10th, 2009


Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy. McArthur & Co. 2008.

Last week, I found myself away from home with no book on hand. Looking for something that would be diverting and light, I stopped by Coles and checked out their sale table for a bargain. I settled on Maeve Binchy’s latest novel, Heart and Soul. Having read a couple of Binchy’s novels, Evening Class and Quentins, I had a good idea of what to expect and was not disappointed.

To read a Binchy novel is to become part of a community. Beginning with a central figure, Binchy introduces the reader to a dizzying cast of characters and weaves their stories together into an interconnected plot. In the case of Heart and Soul, cardiologist Clara Casey anchors the tale as she sets out to develop a clinic to support recovering heart patients in Dublin. The reader is introduced to her staff as she hires new employees: Ania, a young girl from Poland; Declan, a red-headed young doctor who still lives with his mom and dad; Fiona, a pretty nurse who can’t leave her past behind; Barbara, Lavender, Hilary, Tim and Johnny. Then the patients begin to arrive, including the cheerful Bobby Walsh and his shrewish wife Rosemary, who, with their son Carl play important roles in Binchy’s story. Clara’s daughters, Linda and Adi, occupy Clara when she is home from the clinic and she plots with her friend Hilary to bring Linda and Hilary’s son together.

Not all of the characters are new. Readers of Evening Class will recognize Aidan and Nora, who are introduced when Aidan suffers a heart attack. Brenda Brennan of Quentins makes brief appearances, as do characters from Scarlet Feather , Nights of Rain and Stars and other earlier books.

Binchy’s writing is not complex or demanding. Her charm lies in her ability to draw the reader into the lives of her numerous characters. The most amazing feature of Binchy’s writing is the manner in which she manages to bring all the diverse threads of her tale together in the final chapters of her story and set before the reader a satisfying ending that wraps up all the loose ends.

I didn’t find the central setting of Heart and Soul, a cardiology clinic, very convincing, as the clinic is laid out in a rather simplistic form. Nor did I find Clara very convincing as a senior cardiologist. Because of this, I preferred an earlier novel, Evening Class. However, to the extent that the setting is just an excuse to bring together many lives, the clinic works well and allows master storyteller Binchy to present another satisfying tale.

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