Friday, January 29, 2010

Review: Heart and Soul

Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy
3.5 stars

Reasons for reading: snagged it out of the booksale; I like Maeve Binchy

From the publisher: "With the warmth, humor, and compassion we have come to expect, Maeve Binchy tells a story of doctors and staff, patients, family, and friends at a heart clinic in a community caught between the old Ireland and the new. Dr. Clara Casey agrees to take on the seemingly thankless task of establishing a clinic with little funding—for a year. With her own plate full—two troublesome grown daughters and a needy ex-husband—she is still able to gather a wonderfully diverse and dedicated staff. And before long she has done the impossible, made the clinic a success and a aprt of the community. Now Clara must decide whether or not to stay."

First line: "Some projects take forever to get off the ground."

My thoughts: Binchy's books all refer back to previous ones, it seems. While you don't have to have read them, I think it helps. I still haven't read Quentins and it keeps coming up and up. And this one has many references to Nights of Rain and Stars and Evening Class, so I was glad to have read both.

Reviews of Binchy always seem to mention things like warmth and coziness and this book has a fair bit of it, with just enough bite from a very mean-spirited old woman and a couple of bitchy 20-something daughters. There are the usual multiple, intersecting stories which all come together in the end, mostly happily. And I was glad to find that I enjoyed most of the characters much more than I did in the previous Binchy book I read, Tara Road. I wish I knew many more people like shy, kind Dr. Declan and Ania, the Polish immigrant willing to be a friend to all and to cheerfully work as many jobs as she can get to help her mother back in Poland, who she believes she has shamed. There's feisty, pretty, but baggage-laden Fiona from Rain and Stars and Nora Dunne, who made Evening Class the wonderful read it was. Clara Casey grows on your after a bit of prickliness. And teenage caterer-wannabe twins Simon and Maud are endearing yet a bit bizarre. There are love affairs, breakups, deaths, journeys to and from Greece, and, unexpectedly, a very strange plot by an unstable woman to trap a priest into marriage, which was rather a highlight.

The verdict: I'm relieved to have enjoyed this book after a rough patch with Tara Road. I can see why she's so enduringly popular and I really must read Quentins.

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