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Review of Heart and Soul, a novel by Maeve Binchy
I am reviewing the paperback version of the book, 544 pages, Published by Orion, ISBN 978-0752884646, cover price £7.99.
~~~About the Book~~~
Maeve Binchy is a popular author of romantic novels, generally set in Ireland. I have read several of her novels and I find that there is something rather comforting and familiar about picking up a Binchy novel. It is almost like meeting up with an old friend and catching up with his or her news. Binchy writes in a simple, yet totally structured fashion and her characters naturally unfold as the story progresses, I find myself wanting more as I finish each novel, the mark of a good storyteller in my opinion!
The characters in Binchy's novels are very well drawn and although Heart And Soul can be read as a stand alone novel, I recognised several characters from other books and it was rather pleasant to feel that you now knew what had happened to so and so in the end!
As stated above, Heart and Soul does feature characters from previous Maeve Binchy novels, however, the story line of this book is not in anyway, dependant on having read a previous book.
The novel is set in a Dublin hospital, but don't let that put you off, as it is not the usual 'Doctor and Nurse' hospital tale.
The central character is Dr Clara Casey, a senior cardiac specialist at a new heart clinic at St. Brigid's Hospital. Clara has had to fight hospital protocol to set up her clinic and she is working separately to the hospital, whilst still attached to St Brigid's. Clara has a year to justify the need for a heart clinic in Dublin and she has a battle on her hands trying to obtain money for the scheme from the hospital manager.
Clara is separated from her husband Alan, who had left her for a much younger woman. She has two daughters, Adi, a new age, vegetarian eco warrior and Linda, a party girl with a selfish streak. Both girls are in their twenties and still live at home.
Clara struggles to balance her home life, work life and her social life.
Clara employs a young Polish girl, Ania, on the spur of the moment to assist in the day to day running of the clinic. Ania is a hard working, gentle person who only wants to earn enough money to provide a better life for her widowed mother back in Poland. Ania left Poland after a disastrous love affair which led to shame and embarrassment for her mother. She is another character central to the story and her life takes a dramatic turn thanks to working at the clinic.
Dr Declan Carroll also works at the clinic, he is a fairly newly qualified Doctor and is anxious to please. Declan is a typical working class boy made good, his parents are proud of him and cannot quite get over the fact that their son is a Doctor. Declan meets a girl named Fiona through work, their relationship takes off and Declan finds himself contemplating a whole new lifestyle as a result.
Other characters who play a large part in this novel are Hilary Hickey, Clara's assistant, Frank Ennis, the hospital manager, Father Brian Flynn, Johnny the physiotherapist, Lavender the dietician, Tim the security guard and of course, the patients who attend the clinic following having suffered heart attacks and heart disease. There is Aiden Dunne, a Latin teacher and his wife Nora, Bobby Walsh and his wife Rosemary, Judy Murphy and an eccentric gentleman by the name of Lar who entertains himself by 'learning something new everyday'.
The characters are richly diverse and the plot twists and turns throughout the novel. Just as you think you know what will happen with a certain character, Binchy throws a new twist into the mix which keeps the readers interest.
~~~About the Author~~~
Maeve Binchy was born in Dublin in 1940 and brought up in Dalkey. Maeve Binchy worked as a teacher from 1969-1968, she then became a columnist for the Irish Times writing from London. When she married writer Gordon Snell, in 1977, she moved back to the Dublin area. She and her husband now have homes in Dalkey, Ireland, and London.
She is the author of many short stories and full length novels, she has written for Gourmet; O, The Oprah Magazine; Modern Maturity; and Good Housekeeping, among other publications.
A full list of Maeve Binchy's books can be found on her website:-
~~Availability and Price~~
Heart and Soul is available from various High Street stores or online retailers. The cover price on my copy is £7.99
A quick search brought up the following prices, the more expensive figures refer to the hardback version whilst the Amazon price is for a second hand paperback:-
£1.10 from www.amazon.co.uk
£5.11 from www.snazal.com
£10.99 from www.whsmith.co.uk
£13.20 from www.alltopbooks.com
£17.49 from www.play.com
~~My Thoughts and Conclusion~~
I considered Heart and Soul to be a very enjoyable novel. The characters are very well drawn and believable. On the whole the characters are likeable and as a reader, I found I actually cared about them!
The remarkable thing about this novel is that there are secondary story lines running throughout the book which involve the characters and tie in with the main theme seamlessly. Maeve Binchy has excelled herself with Heart and Soul and in my opinion this is one her finest novels.
I would recommend the novel to anyone who enjoys a romantic (yet definitely not soppy!) read with strong characters and an interesting plot.
Thank you for reading.
©brittle1906 December 2009
N.B. My review mat be found on other review sites under the same user name.