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Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy

Heart and Soul (2008)

by Maeve Binchy

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1,395558,218 (3.66)38
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    BookshelfMonstrosity: Adults from many walks of life are brought together in these well-characterized novels, though not always for happy reasons. Though both feature large casts of realistic, complex characters, layered plots, and naturalistic dialogue, Heart and Soul is a lighter read.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
Let me start by saying that I am a huge Maeve Binchy fan and love her writing. She just draws you right into the story and the characters. That being said, this was not her best effort. I enjoyed it, but then she started incorporating charachters from other book (Scarlet Feather, Quentins, Whitethorn Woods, Nights of Rain and Stars). I thought the book got a little disjointed from there and she lost the focus of the current book. I wished she would have focused on the current book and characters and delved more into their stories rather than reaching back to other books. ( )
  songbird72 | Feb 25, 2018 |
Lovely book, wonderful characters, great narrator (lovely accent). A nice distraction from the crazy world of this moment. I like to relax and escape into this quieter kinder place. ( )
  njcur | Dec 5, 2017 |
The Globe and Mail called this "Binchy's best read in a decade" and I would tend to agree. I didn't read her last book (Whitethorn Woods) because I was so disappointed in Nights of Rain and Stars. In this book Binchy brings together characters from some of her previous books with some new characters. One of the new characters is Clara Casey who is the newly appointed head of the Dublin heart clinic. Clara is separated from her husband but has her two daughters living with her. As if it wasn't stress enough to get the heart clinic up and running her husband wants a divorce so he can marry the pregnant woman (not much older than his daughters) for whom he left Clara. In order to stop thinking about the husband Clara plunges herself into the business of finding the right personnel for the clinic. One of the people she hires is Fiona who had a central role in Nights of Rain and Stars. Clara also hires Ania, a Polish immigrant who shows up in the car park next to the clinic one morning, to be the runner and general dogsbody. Quentins, the upscale restaurant from the book of the same name, makes several appearances and the catering couple from Scarlet Feather also show up. But the characters I was most happy to see were Nora and Aidan from The Evening Class. Aidan has a serious heart attack and they go to the clinic for advice on healthy living although Nora is convinced Aidan is going to die an early death. Clara manages to convince Nora to give the clinic a whole-hearted try for 6 weeks. Of course, before the 6 weeks is up Nora and Aidan are great supporters of the clinic.

There are romances between staff, between children of staff and between one staff member and the child of one of the patients. There are ups and downs in the romances but, in the end, those that should work out do. A very satisfying read. ( )
  gypsysmom | Aug 8, 2017 |
Very entertaining. ( )
  JennysBookBag.com | Sep 28, 2016 |
Book Descripiton 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 part of the community. Now Clara must decide whether or not to stay.

My Review I love Maeve Binchy's novels and this one did not disappoint. It has a great plot and great development of characters. It is a very easy read and should not be missed if you are a Binchy fan. I'm looking forward to reading another of her novels very soon. ( )
  EadieB | Jun 3, 2016 |
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In memory of my dear younger sister Renie. And with great love and thanks to Gordon who makes the bad times bearable and the good times magical.
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Some projects take forever to get off the ground.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 030726579X, Hardcover)

Book Description
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 the new Ireland.

Dr. Clara Casey has been offered the thankless job of establishing the 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.

Heart and Soul is Maeve Binchy at her storytelling best.

A Conversation with Maeve Binchy

Question: Your novels often explore the concept of love. Can you name a few of your favorite literary love stories?
Maeve Binchy: I think most people read a love story long before they ever know what true love is like. So we remember the great passions that we read about when we were young. I loved the story of Anthony and Cleopatra, and how Anthony allowed himself to dally with the Queen of Egypt when he should have been back in Rome watching his back. I liked the frenetic, troubled romances in F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the changing patterns of Scarlett O’Hara’s love life in Gone with the Wind.

Q: Heart and Soul is set in a heart clinic. Why did you choose this setting and how does it influence the story?
MB: I set Heart and Soul in a heart clinic because I attend one myself. I have always found it a place of hope and optimism where they teach you how to manage your heart disease and not to be afraid of it. When I was young if anyone had a heart attack we thought it was goodbye. But not nowadays.

It seemed like a good place to set a story, a place where people were slowly getting courage to live their lives to the fullest. And I wanted to make it cheerful and positive and funny, which is what we all need.

Q: The book centers on Clara, the doctor in charge of the clinic, but the book also follows quite an ensemble of characters with intertwining stories. How does your work within the discipline of short story writing contribute to your work within the novel genre?
MB: I like to concentrate on the bit part players, the supporting cast as well as the main characters, so it’s often interesting to pause and follow somebody home to a different life while still connecting them to the main story. Then when that person appears again it is like meeting an old friend.

Because I do write short stories I suppose I find it easy to slip into someone’s life for a short time and then leave.

Q: New characters are joined by a few from past books, including Nora from Evening Class, Maud and Simon from Scarlet Feather, and Quentins itself (if I can call a restaurant a character). How did you decide which characters to bring back to life?
MB: I decided to bring back characters whose lives were not finished and tidied up. I was even wondering myself would Vonni ever find her long lost son? Would Signora be happy when she married Aidan? How the twins Maud and Simon would turn out when they stopped being twelve year olds. I wondered would poor Father Flynn, who was so basically decent, survive in the parish where they were all obsessed with the Holy Well or would he get a more relevant posting. I so enjoyed meeting them all again and I think the readers like it too.

Q: Irish culture is known for its storytelling, both in the oral and written tradition. Do you also enjoy telling stories out loud? Are you the life of the dinner party?
MB: The Irish do love telling stories and we are suspicious of people who don’t have long complicated conversations. There used to be a rule in Etiquette Books that you invited four talkers and four listeners to a dinner party. That doesn’t work in Ireland because nobody knows four listeners. I do talk a lot at dinner parties--I hope not too much but then I love other people to talk also. I am edgy and anxious when people just nod and smile instead of having views on every subject under the sun.

Q: Your books capture the culture of Ireland. Although Ireland has not escaped the recent economic downturn, how has Ireland’s rapid growth--finally joining the ranks of the world’s wealthiest countries following centuries of poverty--influenced your storytelling?
MB: Ireland changed a great deal in my lifetime. People became much more wealthy because of being members of the European community. The influence of the Catholic Church changed--once we feared the clergy and were in awe of them and now it is much easier and more communal. Once no foreigners came to work here since there wasn’t enough work for ourselves, but now it’s multicultural and you could hear twenty languages being spoken all around you. It has been a great help to the country and given us all more confidence.

Q: Your first book was published in 1982. Has your writing process changed over the years? How do you continue to challenge yourself?
MB: When I started writing I used to concentrate on the 50s and 60s when I was young, but I needed to try to become more modern and catch up on today’s Ireland. So I started to watch the young Irish people and talk to them as if they were a different tribe, which in many ways they are!

I discovered that they are not so different to my generation, they have more freedom, more responsibility and more courage than we had but they also have areas of uncertainty and unrequited love as we all did.

Q: What are you working on next?
MB: I am working at the moment on writing a three page outline for another novel. I must make it interesting enough for the publishers to like it and give me the go ahead. It should be in the same style as the books I have already written but not visit the same topics and repeat myself.

Q: Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
MB: A typical day is breakfast (grapefruit and Irish soda bread and tea), then on to a big bright work room upstairs. [My husband and I] both try to be at our desks there at 8:30 am and we work until 1 pm. This includes answering mail and filing. We have a secretary one day a week. Then when work is over we have lunch and play a game of chess--we play seven days a week and have been doing so for over thirty years and we are still hopeless at it but love it to bits.

Q: With two writers in one household, do you and your husband give each other feedback or work separately?
MB: We have one long desk in our study upstairs--Gordon [Snell] is at one end and I am at the other. He writes his children’s books and verses and I do my stories. We always read each other our work in the afternoon. The rules are that we must be honest. No false praise. We allow the other ten minutes sulking time if we don’t like what we’ve heard. But then we have to accept or reject the criticism. No one is allowed to brood over it!

Q: What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors?
MB: I have just begun Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, which seems terrific. There are so many but off the top of my head here are some names of authors I love: Anne Tyler, Harlan Coben, Lee Child, and David Baldacci.

(Photo © David Timmons)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:18 -0400)

A story of family, friends, patients, and staff who are part of a heart clinic in a community caught between the old and the new in Ireland.

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