With the insight, humor, and compassion we have come to expect from her, Maeve Binchy tells a story of family, friends, patients, and staff who are part of a heart clinic in a community caught between the old and new Ireland.
Dr. Clara Casey has been offered the thankless job of establishing an underfunded clinic and agrees to take it on for a year. She has plenty on her plate already – two difficult adult daughters and the unwanted attentions of her ex-husband – but she assembles a wonderfully diverse staff devoted to helping their demanding, often difficult patients.
Before long the clinic is established as an essential part of the community, and Clara must decide whether or not to leave a place where lives are saved, courage is rewarded, and humor and optimism triumph over greed and self-pity.
Clara and her daughters. Declan the doctor and his nurse Fiona. Vonnie, her son and the twins. Linda and Nick. Nora and Aidan. Ania and Carl. Hilary and Clara. Clara and Frank … pick a story, any story! In true Binchy fashion, Heart and Soul follows the stories of a dozen different people all drawn together by a little heart clinic in a rundown part of Dublin. The clinic is literally, the heart and soul of this book.
Binchy is a master of multi storylines. Each character is presented as essential to the fates of the others and each serves his/her purpose and their actions are believable and sympathetic. Love is the driving force here. Romantic love, familial love and love co-workers who become friends. It is a consummate tale of community and finding one’s place in the world.
If you’ve read other Binchy books you’ll run into some old friends – some you may have even forgotten about because they’ve played such small roles in other books. I really did enjoy catching up with these lovely friends.
I do have a bit of a grippe here. Although I do enjoy books such as these, I really do wish Binchy would return to writing about a single strong-willed heroine who’s life is told through the actions of others. I enjoyed her lengthy sagas of 1950-60 Ireland and cross my fingers that she’ll write at least one more of those.
Things I Liked
~ The reappearance of old characters! Like old friends, Binchy brought back some characters from Night of Moon and Stars, Scarlet Feather, Quentins, Evening Class and … well others. I liked catching up with these characters and enjoyed seeing some of their stories coming to an end.
~ My favorite story was that of Ania and Carl. Perhaps because Poland sounded a bit like old Ireland but more importantly because Ania’s story read like that of a fairy tale.
Things I Didn’t Like
~ The twins. I was often confused by their conversation and a little annoyed with the fact. I am glad they only had a little part but could have done without their trip to Greece.
~ Although I really do like Binchy’s style of multiple storylines, I am ready for her return to a more single-thread story where other characters take a backseat and provide background to the main issues.
~ I wish there was a bit more about Barbara. Everyone else seemed to find true love at the end and poor Barbara was sort of left in the cold. Perhaps we’ll see her in future books!
~ Published – January 2009
~ Price ~ $26.95
~Favorite Author Book ~ The Glass Lake, Circle of Friends
~ Author Website - www.maevebinchy.com
This review can also be found at Reading Romance Books