Heart and Soul

( 225 )

Overview

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...

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Heart and Soul

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Good-hearted [and] entertaining . . . [Heart and Soul] reflects a pervasive generosity of spirit [and] offers many honest pleasures." –The Washington Post

"Sweet indulgence. . . . Heart and Soul is a delicious delight." –Las Vegas Review-Journal

"Heart and Soul is a pleasant escape into an entertaining fantasy world across the ocean. . . . [Binchy] once again paints a delightful picture of Ireland that elevates the everyday joys and tragedies of her characters to ones of pure romance." –Woodbury Magazine

“A new Maeve Binchy novel is always welcome. . . . Binchy has a true gift of creating characters we either know or wish we knew . . . Heart and Soul creates a perfect escape.” –The Plain Dealer

“At the end of a long week, a long winter, a long economic downturn, [Maeve Binchy’s Heart and Soul is] exactly what we need.” –Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Warm and comfy. . . . Reading Heart and Soul is not unlike getting a hug from your mother.” –The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

"Oh, the bliss. . . . Maeve's back, on top form." –The Times (London)

"[Maeve Binchy] knows how to fashion a minor drama into a crisis, and the book rattles along from one gripping story to another, leaving the reader with a satisfying glow. . . . It does exactly what it says on the tin: gives heart and soul." –Daily Mail

"[Heart and Soul] brings together the secret hopes and dreams of a disparate group of characters . . . with [Binchy's] trademark warmth and empathy." –Irish Sunday Independent

"Maeve Binchy's latest novel is packed as usual with wonderful characters. . . . Full of warmth, caring and commonsense." –CHOICE

Bill Sheehan
Binchy is adept at juggling multiple story lines and creating genuine drama out of the quotidian problems of life: illness, accidents, misunderstandings, romantic and sexual betrayal. Her work reflects a pervasive generosity of spirit and projects a reassuring quality that is, I think, a central element of her enduring popularity…this good-hearted…novel offers many honest pleasures and deserves the success it will no doubt achieve.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Binchy delivers another delightful Binchyesque amalgamation of intersecting lives, this time centering on Clara Casey, a cardiologist whose marriage and career have fallen apart. After she accepts an undesirable post at St. Brigid's Hospital, Clara throws herself into work to forget the humiliation of her husband's many affairs, but it's difficult to escape her home life with two adult daughters who still depend on her as if they were children. Though she stands at the center of the book, Clara cedes the stage to others, such as Declan Carroll, a young doctor at the clinic trying to make a life for himself, and Ania, Clara's assistant, whose affair with a married man forced her to leave her Polish hometown. Beautiful, hardworking and humble, Ania attracts the attention of Carl Walsh, the son of one of the clinic's patients. And so it goes in this novel of intersecting lives that keeps daily drama interesting even when it occasionally sacrifices suspense for realism. In spite of a few dull moments, the collective, charming effect of these story lines suggests that individuals are more connected than they might think. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

The newly hired director of a cardiac-care center, Dr. Clara Casey is a strong character, who with great humor and panache manages life as a female medical professional and the single mother of two daughters. Crossing paths in the clinic or via clinic staff are Nora and Aidan Dunne, Father Bryan Flynn, Tom and Cathy Feather, and twins Simon and Maud, among others from various earlier Binchy novels (e.g., Evening Class). In keeping with tradition, several important dinners take place at Quentins restaurant. A nurse in Clara's clinic, Fiona Ryan has rebounded from the disastrous relationship portrayed in Nights of Rain and Stars, and a hard-working Polish immigrant named Ania overcomes her past and blossoms in her adopted country. The novel ranges far and wide, following some recurring characters to Greece, and it is always a comfort to catch up with familiar faces and meet new friends. Binchy fills the book with people finding true love, discovering their niche in life, and taking full advantage of second chances. Binchy's numerous fans will seek this out. [See Prepub Alert, LJ10/1/08.]
—Beth Lindsay

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307278425
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/23/2010
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 576
  • Sales rank: 163,012
  • Product dimensions: 4.32 (w) x 6.88 (h) x 1.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy is the author of numerous best-selling books, including her most recent novel, Whitethorn Woods, in addition to Nights of Rain and Stars, Quentins, Scarlet Feather, Circle of Friends, and Tara Road, which was an Oprah Book Club selection. She has written for Gourmet; O, The Oprah Magazine; and Good Housekeeping, among other publications. She and her husband, Gordon Snell, live in Dalkey, Ireland, and London.

Biography

If storytelling is an art, then Maeve Binchy is unquestionably one of today's master artists. After all, Binchy was born, educated, and lives in Ireland, a land well known for its great storytellers. Firmly grounded in the Irish storytelling tradition, Binchy has earned a sizeable following of enthusiastic fans for her 11 novels and 4 collections of short stories. I had a very happy childhood, which is unsuitable if you're going to be an Irish writer," Maeve jokes. Perhaps that happy childhood is why Binchy did not publish her first novel until she was 43 years old. But there's no doubt that once she did she proved herself to be an immensely talented, multiple New York Times-bestselling author. her name.

Binchy was introduced into the joys of storytelling at an early age. Her mother, Maureen, and father, William, a prominent Dublin barrister, encouraged Binchy and her three siblings to be avid readers as well as to share stories at dinner and, as her brother William admits, nobody loved telling stories more than Maeve.

Growing up in the quiet seaside town of Dalkey, located about 10 miles south of Dublin, Binchy also found herself dreaming of escape. "I love Dalkey now," she says, "but when I was young, I thought it was somewhat like living in the desert." Her desire to escape led her first to the big city, to the University College in Dublin, where she studied history and French. After graduating in 1960, she taught Latin, French, and history in a Dublin grade school and was able to indulge her love of traveling during summer vacations. She proved so popular a teacher that parents of her students pooled their money to send her on a trip to Israel. Her father was so impressed by the letters she wrote describing Israeli life that he typed them up and sent them to the Irish Independent newspaper. That's how Maeve returned home to find, quite to her surprise, that she was now a published writer.

Using her newfound interest in journalism, she got a job on The Irish Times as the women's editor, an unlikely role for her, she jokingly acknowledges, given her hopeless lack of fashion sense. In the early 70s, she shifted to feature reporting, and moved to London. The move was motivated only in part by her career. Making the kind of bold life-altering decision that many of her characters are prone to, Binchy decided to take a chance and move to London to be with the man she'd fallen in love with during a previous visit—Gordon Snell, a BBC broadcaster, children's book author, and mystery novelist.

The risk, as it often does in her novels, paid off big time. Maeve married Gordon in 1977, and the two remain happily married to this day. In 1980, they bought a one-bedroom cottage back in Binchy's old hometown of Dalkey. Struggling to make mortgage payments on their new home, Binchy, who had published two collections of her newspaper work and one of short stories, decided to try to sell her first novel, which she'd managed to write in between her newspaper assignments. When her publisher told her that Light A Penny Candle would likely be a bestseller, Maeve remembers her sense of shock. "I had to sit down," she recalls. "I had never even had enough money to pay the telephone bill."

Maeve and her husband still live in that same Dalkey cottage, where they share an office, writing side by side. "All I ever wanted to do," she says, "is to write stories that people will enjoy and feel at home with." She has unquestionably succeeded with that goal. Light A Penny Candle was followed by such bestselling works as Circle of Friends, which was turned into a major motion picture starring Minnie Driver, and Tara Road, an Oprah Book Club selection. Binchy is consistently named one of the most popular writers in readers' polls in England and Ireland, outselling and rated higher than James Joyce. Of this success, Binchy comments with her typical good humor, "If you're going on a plane journey, you're more likely to take one of my stories than Finnegan's Wake."

In addition to her books, Binchy is also a playwright whose works have been staged at The Peacock Theatre of Dublin, and was the author of a hugely popular monthly column called "Maeve's Week," which appeared in The Irish Times for 32 years. A kind of combined gossip, humor, and advice column, it achieved cult status in Ireland and abroad.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

Good To Know

In our interview, Binchy shared some fun facts about herself with us:

"I am a big, confident, happy woman who had a loving childhood, a pleasant career, and a wonderful marriage. I feel very lucky."

"I have been lucky enough to travel a lot, meet great people in many lands. I have liked almost everyone I met along the way."

"I have always believed that life is too short for rows and disagreements. Even if I think I'm right, I would prefer to apologize and remain friends rather than win and be an enemy."

"I live in Ireland near the sea, only one mile from where I grew up -- that's good, since I've known many of my neighbours for between 50-60 years. Gordon and I play chess every day, and we are both equally bad. We play chatty over talkative bad Bridge with friends every week."

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    1. Hometown:
      Dublin, Ireland, and London, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 28, 1940
    2. Place of Birth:
      Dalkey, a small village outside Dublin, Ireland
    1. Education:
      Holy Child Convent in Killiney; B.A. in history, University College, Dublin, 1960

Read an Excerpt

Mountainview, despite its pleasant name, was one of the tough areas of Dublin. Some of the big estates were home to drug dealers and it wasn't a place to walk alone at night. The school had its ups and downs, but it was lucky enough to have a headmaster, Tony O'Brien, who could deal with toughness head-on.Some of the older teachers found the change difficult. Things used to be different. The place had been shabby but they'd had respect. The children came from homes where money was short, but they were all keen to make something of themselves. Today they only cared about money, and if someone's big brother was driving a smart car and wearing an expensive leather jacket, it was hard to get interested in having a job in a bank or an office where you might never make enough to have your own house or car and a leather jacket was just a dream. No wonder so many of them joined gangs. And as for respect? Aidan Dunne told his wife, Nora, all about it.Big fellows would push past you in the corridor and sort of nudge the books out of your hand. Then they would laugh and say that sir must be losing his grip. Aidan remembered when they would rush to pick up the books. Not now. Now they called him Baldy, or asked him if he remembered the First World War.It was the same with the women teachers. If they weren't married, some of the really rough fellows would ask them were they frigid or lesbian. If they were married, they would ask them how many times a night did they do it.“And what do you say?” Nora wondered.“I try to ignore them. I tell myself that they're only insecure kids like always—it's just they have a different way of expressing it. Still, it doesn't make the day's work any easier.”“And how do the women cope?”“The younger ones are on top of it, they say things like, 'Oh, you'd never be able to satisfy me like my old man does,' or else that, sure, they are gay because the only alternative is horrible spotty boys with filthy fingernails.” Aidan shook his head. “By the time I get to the classroom I'm worn out,” he said sadly.“Why don't you give it up?” Nora said suddenly. She taught Italian at an evening class and organized a yearly outing to Italy for the group. She had several other small jobs, but she had no interest in money or pensions or the future. She sat in one of the basket chairs she had bought at a garage sale and tried to persuade Aidan to join her in this carefree lifestyle.But he was a worrier. It would be idiotic to leave his school now several years before retirement date. It would mean no proper pension; if he were to amount to anything he had to provide for Nora and his family from an earlier marriage.“Oh, you've well provided for them,” Nora said cheerfully.“You've given Nell most of the money you got for the house, Grania is married to the headmaster of Mountainview School, Brigid has been made a partner in the travel agency. They should be providing for you, if you come to think of it.”“But you, Nora, what about you? I want to look after you, give you some comfort and pleasures.”“You give me great comfort and pleasures,” she said.“But some security, Nora,” he pleaded.“I never had security before, I don't want it now.”“I have to finish out my time there.”“Not if you don't like it. What about this lovely life we promised each other and we have mainly had?”“It depends on my having a good safe job, Nora,” he said.“No—it doesn't. Not if it's making you worry, and panic about these louts. We don't need it, Aidan. Not if it's affecting your health.”“It's not affecting my health,” Aidan said firmly.A week later Aidan and Nora were in one of their favorite secondhand bookshops; they were each browsing separately when she suddenly looked over at him. His hand was at his throat and he seemed to be having difficulty catching his breath.“Aidan?” she called.“Sorry, is it very stuffy in here?”“No, indeed—there's a lazy wind coming in from the canal.”“A lazy wind?” he asked distractedly.“You know—a wind that doesn't bother to make the time to go round you so it goes through you . . .” Nora smiled.He didn't smile back.She was alarmed now. “Is there something wrong?”“I don't seem to be able to breathe in,” he said. “Oh, Nora, dear Nora, I hope that I'm not going to faint or anything.”“No, of course you're not. Just sit down there.” She was brisk and practical. First, she spoke to the shop owner.“Where's the nearest hospital?” she asked.“St. Brigid's. Is there a problem?”“I think my husband is having some kind of seizure. Taxi rank?”“Don't bother. I'll drive you,” he said.Nora didn't question it. There would be time to thank him later.“Right, Aidan, Dara is giving us a lift,” she said.“Where to?” he gasped.“To somewhere that will help you breathe properly, my darling,” she said.And he closed his eyes in relief.At the A&E in St. Brigid's the nurses moved him wordlessly into a cubicle. They had given him oxygen and the house doctor had been called.“Take off his trousers,” the doctor said.“What?” Nora was taken aback.“Please, madam.” The Chinese doctor was very courteous. “His lungs are flooded, we need to drain the liquid from him, we have to put him on a catheter . . .”Nora explained this to Aidan.“That's extraordinary—I don't feel as if I need to go to the loo at all,” he said.The oxygen was helping. He was much calmer. Nora looked at a huge container and saw it filling up with what looked like gallons of fluid.“How could that happen?” she asked.“The heart is failing to pump,” the Chinese doctor explained.“He is in heart failure at the moment.”Nora felt all the strength leave her body. The good, kind man that she adored and who loved her too had a heart that had failed him. Life as they knew it was over.In about an hour Aidan felt so much better he was ready to come home. He was surprised when he heard that they were getting a bed for him in St. Brigid's.“But I'm perfectly fine now,” he protested.Nora went home for his pajamas, dressing gown and a sponge bag. She remained calm and reassuring on the outside, but inside she felt that she had lost the will to live.The next few days passed in a blur: visits from teams of senior doctors, their younger assistants with clipboards, nurses, carers, cleaners, trolleys of food. Visitors coming in with anxious faces. And among them was Nora Dunne, tall, wild-eyed, her long red hair with its gray streaks tied back with a black ribbon.She sat beside Aidan's bed and they played chess happily together. If people had been watching them closely they would have noticed that they never talked about household things, bills, repairs, shopping. They didn't talk about neighbors or family or friends. They just lived for each other. And if people had been watching very carefully they would have realized that Nora was behaving like a robot. She was keeping the show on the road for Aidan.When he was discharged after a week they talked to him seriously about levels of stress in his life. When he told them about life up at the school, the cardiologist advised him to give up the job. Aidan wouldn't even consider discussing it. He would take his medication, he would take long rests each day. But he would not give up his job. It was the only thing he had to offer his wife, some stability. He had not been a good provider. There had been other calls on his finances. A previous family. No, in all honor he had to stay on until his pension was assured.The medical team spoke to Nora too and found her hard to fathom. Over and over she said she wasn't remotely interested in possessions or pensions. They lived in a small and simple rented flat. She could easily go out to work and make the rent. Their needs were not great.“So will you encourage him to retire?” the cardiologist suggested.“No, not if he doesn't want to, Doctor. Why should I stand between him and what he wants to do? Aidan always loved teaching. He would feel such a failure if we took him out of that school.”“Could he not teach at home? Give private tuition, maybe?”“No. Aidan doesn't approve of people having to pay for extra education. We couldn't ask him to go against his principles.”“But you are such a strong personality, Mrs. Dunne. I am sure that you could persuade him.”“I'm sure I could if I tried—but it would not be honest to make him give up what he truly wants to do.”“Even if it's killing him?”“But he's going to die anyway, isn't he?”“We all are, but with care he has plenty of life left.”Nora's face was still empty. “A life of fear and anxiety and thinking that choking will return.”“We can help him make sure that it doesn't. As sure as can be.”“Which isn't totally sure, is it?” Her voice was hard.“No, no more than we can be sure that you won't both be hit by a bus on your way home. But we have a very good record in keeping people alive and well and in normal life after a heart attack. Your husband will be in that number. We have referred him to a heart failure clinic which he will have to attend regularly. It's a heart clinic attached to this hospital. Patients go there to be monitored, to have blood tests, check their medication.”“And why do you call it heart failure?”“Because that's what their hearts are doing: failing to work at the optimum levels.”“And Aidan has to come here every week, is that it?”“To start with, yes. Then as he progresses, less often. He will findit a great reassurance.”Nora was silent.“Truly he will, Mrs. Dunne. All our research has shown that it makes people much more confident and positive, which is exactly what they need at this time.”“And is it funded by a drug company? Do they do experiments on the patients?”“Absolutely not. It is operated under the aegis of this hospital and we are very proud of it.” He bristled with resentment at her suspicions.“I'm sorry, Doctor. To you Aidan is a patient you are looking after. To me he is my whole life. I'm not thinking straight.”“He will need you to think straight now more than ever before,” the doctor said. Clearly, this woman had to be brought on board.“Go to the heart clinic with him, get to know the people there; you may both get a lot from it.”For the first time, the tight, pained look left Nora Dunne's face.She was a handsome woman, the doctor realized.“We'll give it a chance,” she said with a hint of a smile.Excerpted from HEART AND SOUL by Maeve Binchy Copyright © 2009 by Maeve Binchy. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Introduction

"Good-hearted and entertaining.... Offers many honest pleasures." —The Washington Post

The introduction, questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are intended to enhance your reading group's discussion of Maeve Binchy's engrossing, deeply satisfying new novel, Heart and Soul.

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Foreword

1. Have you read any of Maeve Binchy's other books? If you've encountered any of these characters before, how did this new novel deepen your understanding of them? If you haven't, which characters would you like to spend more time with?

2. It's clear what the “heart” of the title refers to, but who—or what—is the “soul”?

3. The heart clinic is the embodiment of a new idea that advocates teaching people about their health without having to go to a hospital or to a doctor who may not have much time to spend with an individual patient. Why do you think the heart clinic is a good idea? Is there such a thing in your town or neighborhood?

4. There are many different mothers in the novel. Who does Binchy portray as a good mother? In what ways? Which mother would you most like to have as your own?

5. How are Binchy's mother-daughter relationships different from her mother-son ones?

6. Why does Clara find it easier to be kind to Ania than to her daughters Adi and Linda?

7. Clara is a firm believer in the “curative powers of being busy” [p. 25]. How does this affect her in her career? In her personal life?

8. It is very difficult to make decisions about your parents when they are older. Was Hilary right to try to keep her mother at home with her?

9. There are two car accidents in the novel. How does each one change the course of the story?

10. What role does the “new Ireland” play in Heart and Soul? Is Quentins part of the new Ireland and if so how? What other aspects of this novel reflect the new Ireland?

11. Discuss the bigotry Ania faces, especially by Rosemary. Inwhat ways is the treatment of new immigrants different in Ireland than it is in this country?

12. Several of the women have had relationships with abusive and entirely untrustworthy men. How does their prior history affect their current romances? Are these relationships healthier than the previous ones because of the men involved, or have the women themselves changed?

13. The pharmacist, Peter Barry, seems as if he would be a good husband. What made Clara realize that he wasn't the man for her? Do you think she was right in her decision?

14. On page 191, Ania says, “I like this word peaceable. . . It's what I would like to be.” Does she achieve this goal? How does her new-found peace help in her encounters with Rosemary?

15. Was Eileen Edwards genuinely delusional, or do you think she had another reason for blackmailing Father Flynn? What did you think of Johnny's solution to Father Flynn's problem? Who benefited the most from the resolution?

16. Twice in the novel, characters state, “We always regret what we don't do, rarely what we do do.” Who follows this code to the greatest advantage? Is there anyone who should apply it but doesn't?

17. Who is the most contented character in the novel? The most disappointed? What role does money play in their happiness?

18. On page 514, Declan says to Rosemary “May you get what you deserve.” Does she? Which of Binchy's characters doesn't?

19. Who was your favorite character and why?

20. What do you imagine happens next between Clara and Frank?

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Interviews & Essays

Mother's Day
It's so easy to look at other people's situations and sort them out. I am an expert on knowing what everyone else should do in life. Mother's Day, for example. My mother died over forty years before Mother's Day had become a festival and an institution, but I know exactly the kind of Mother's Day she would have liked.

She would have loved to be surrounded by her children and the grandchildren she never got to see. We would all have brought her a book and she would have been delighted with each one and read what we had written in the flyleaf. She would have liked us to be relaxed and happy not competitive and edgy. She would surely have liked memories and recollections and funny stories of the past. She might have tried to brush them away but deep down she would have been thrilled to know that we thought she was a terrific mother who told us that we were all wonderful and filled us with confidence and courage.

I think we would have had lunch at her house where we all brought the food. Then afterwards we would invite some of her friends in for tea and cake. They would see a room full of flowers, books, cards and family. They would be impressed and realize that she was much loved and valued. The day would be celebratory but in my mind it would only be one of many times in the year that we would all get together.

Sadly I am not a mother myself. I don't know what it's like at all but if I had two children I would love a picnic for Mother's Day. I wouldn't care so much about a big bouquet of flowers. I would prefer the sound of laughter in a garden and the realization that the children had enjoyed their youth. It would be very cheering to think that I had made them laugh and that they looked back on their photograph albums with pleasure. Is that over sentimental? Is it just the annual fantasy of a motherless childless woman who wants part of the action? Or is it actually very wise?

Perhaps all over the land there are women who would love a gift carefully chosen to add to their bookshelf, a special message of Thank You written on the card or a bouquet of flowers. But I think that mothers everywhere would mostly want the presence of a smiling united family. Surely I am not the only woman in the world to feel this way. I just offer it as random thought about a world which I know little about.

And make it a good day however you spend it. --Maeve Binchy

A Conversation with Maeve Binchy, Author of HEART AND SOUL

Q: Your novels often explore the concept of love. Can you name a few of your favorite literary love stories?

A: 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?

A: 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?

A: I like to concentrate on the bit part players, the supporting cast as well as the maincharacters, 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 Feature, and Quentins itself (if I can call a restaurant a character). How did you decide which characters to bring back to life?

A: 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?

A: 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?

A: 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?

A: 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?

A: 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?

A: 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?

A: 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 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?

A: 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: Ann Tyler, Harlan Coben, Lee Child and David Baldacci.
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Reading Group Guide

1. Have you read any of Maeve Binchy's other books? If you've encountered any of these characters before, how did this new novel deepen your understanding of them? If you haven't, which characters would you like to spend more time with?

2. It's clear what the “heart” of the title refers to, but who—or what—is the “soul”?

3. The heart clinic is the embodiment of a new idea that advocates teaching people about their health without having to go to a hospital or to a doctor who may not have much time to spend with an individual patient. Why do you think the heart clinic is a good idea? Is there such a thing in your town or neighborhood?

4. There are many different mothers in the novel. Who does Binchy portray as a good mother? In what ways? Which mother would you most like to have as your own?

5. How are Binchy's mother-daughter relationships different from her mother-son ones?

6. Why does Clara find it easier to be kind to Ania than to her daughters Adi and Linda?

7. Clara is a firm believer in the “curative powers of being busy” [p. 25]. How does this affect her in her career? In her personal life?

8. It is very difficult to make decisions about your parents when they are older. Was Hilary right to try to keep her mother at home with her?

9. There are two car accidents in the novel. How does each one change the course of the story?

10. What role does the “new Ireland” play in Heart and Soul? Is Quentins part of the new Ireland and if so how? What other aspects of this novel reflect the new Ireland?

11. Discuss the bigotry Ania faces, especially by Rosemary. In what ways is the treatment of new immigrants different in Ireland than it is in this country?

12. Several of the women have had relationships with abusive and entirely untrustworthy men. How does their prior history affect their current romances? Are these relationships healthier than the previous ones because of the men involved, or have the women themselves changed?

13. The pharmacist, Peter Barry, seems as if he would be a good husband. What made Clara realize that he wasn't the man for her? Do you think she was right in her decision?

14. On page 191, Ania says, “I like this word peaceable. . . It's what I would like to be.” Does she achieve this goal? How does her new-found peace help in her encounters with Rosemary?

15. Was Eileen Edwards genuinely delusional, or do you think she had another reason for blackmailing Father Flynn? What did you think of Johnny's solution to Father Flynn's problem? Who benefited the most from the resolution?

16. Twice in the novel, characters state, “We always regret what we don't do, rarely what we do do.” Who follows this code to the greatest advantage? Is there anyone who should apply it but doesn't?

17. Who is the most contented character in the novel? The most disappointed? What role does money play in their happiness?

18. On page 514, Declan says to Rosemary “May you get what you deserve.” Does she? Which of Binchy's characters doesn't?

19. Who was your favorite character and why?

20. What do you imagine happens next between Clara and Frank?

(For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit www.readinggroupcenter.com)

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 225 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(96)

4 Star

(61)

3 Star

(37)

2 Star

(14)

1 Star

(17)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 227 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    fans of Ms. Binchy will have a wonderful time reading her latest multifaceted look at relationships

    Cardiologist Dr. Clara Casey knows how far she has fallen from grace with her new position as the head of t St. Brigid¿s Hospital. She agreed to a one year stint at the always in financial need clinic while trying to resuscitate her medical career. She does no care about revising her dead marriage as she knows it collapsed due to her cheating spouse¿s wandering penis. She also has two adult daughters who are demanding and spoiled and her ex keeps sniffing around her.<BR/><BR/>Clara plans to do the best she can at St. Brigid¿s and ignore her family as much as possible. She finds her staff hardworking and cheerful in spite of lousy hours, crappy pay, and fractious patients. Her Polish assistant Ania is bright and hardworking although Clara knows if she had been in Ireland she could have been one of her former husband¿s trophies. Instead she is an indispensable addition to the staff. Nurse Fiona Ryan brings professional care taking to the patients having moved past her personal disaster of NIGHTS OF RAIN AND STARS. Outside the clinic Clara meets friendly people especially at a local restaurant. Clara is having the time of her life and considers extending her stay though her daughters and her ex object; like they have a vote on her life.<BR/><BR/>The fascination with this fine entry by Maeve Binchy is that the star of the story line Clara is off page more often than not as the spotlight is frequently on the support cast in and out of the hospital; the amazement is how well the plot stays focused even meandering to other countries. The cast is strong as always and their lives interweave in a much more complex convoluted intricacies that make the DNA matrix look like a preschool puzzle. With the return of characters like the nurse from previous novels, fans of Ms. Binchy will have a wonderful time reading her latest multifaceted look at relationships.<BR/><BR/>Harriet Klausner

    10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 28, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Fantastic

    Wow, another great read from Maeve Binchy, filled with love, compassion, suspence, and yes, even intrigue, set in a heart clinic in today's Ireland. When Dr. Clara Casey is offered the job of establishing the underfunded clinic she almost turns it down since she has enough on her plate as it is, namely an ex-husband who won't leave her alone, and two recalcitrant daughters who won't grow up.
    But reluctantly she accepts the challenge and to her surprise both she and the cliic survive and prosper, due in great part to a devoted cast of characters who help her meet the demands of their often difficult patients with both humor and understanding. One can't help being touched by sweet Ania, the little Polish girl, whose heart was broen by a cad but finds love again, or cheer the romance of nice Dr. Declan and the beautirul Fiona, or laugh at the antics of the fantastically talented twins, Maud and Simon, who not only cook but finish each other's sentences. These are just a few of the marvelously diverse characters who people this enchanting book and make you laugh, cry, and care. Maeve Binch at her best.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 19, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    HEART WARMING AND CHARMING

    There's something comforting about Maeve Binchy's books, a treat to savor and relish, lovely, compelling, warm and heart-warming.
    The charm lies is the characters. All are created so that we can empathize with their every day troubles and disappointments and share their joy at their triumphs. We genuinely care about the wonderful characters.

    Clara, the lead protagonist, is a woman frustrated by having missed out on what she thought would be her defining professional opportunity. She agrees to set up and run the under-funded St. Brigid's Heart Clinic for 12 months and in doing so gathers around her new and interesting characters. She encounters personal problems, Alan, who is asking her for a divorce so he can marry his child girlfriend, her adult daughters, Adi and Linda, who are having their own problems settling down and so on.

    This is a charming blend of laughter and tears full of "Heart and Soul" and wonderful, interesting characters.
    I RECOMMEND!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2009

    What a boring book

    Was never much of a fan of Ms Binchy's books and this one does not bring me back into the fold. The characters in this story are paper thin, the plot line is predictable. I was hoping there would be more "Irishnish" in this book. The only book I ever enjoyed was the early "Tara Road"; since then this is boring.

    5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 28, 2010

    WALK DOWN MEMORY LANE

    This book was a great culmination of her former books. What fun to read through and see the characters from previous books brought into this story. This is a great book for readers who have read her other works!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 18, 2009

    Loved it!

    Just when you think you¿ll never find another good book, one to comfort you when you are tired and stressed out, one to remind you that life is full of wonderful surprises, and one that introduces you to people you will love like they are your own best friends, Maeve Binchy rescues you with another fabulous novel. If you are already a fan of Maeve Binchy then you will find Heart and Soul is everything you have come to expect in her books. If this is your first introduction to her, you will soon find yourself racing out to gather all her books, and what a treat you are in for!<BR/>As I fully expected, I loved Heart and Soul. It is full of quirky, loveable, interesting characters. The plot is surprising, often going in directions I hadn¿t expected, yet always yielding satisfying conclusions. Many characters from her previous books make appearances and some even have starring roles. It was great to catch up with some of my old friends! I can¿t recommend Heart and Soul highly enough!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2012

    A nice read.

    Characters from other stories are re-visited. Felt like returning to a place and characters you fell in love with and making some new friends.

    An enjoyable book, a quick read

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 13, 2012

    Great book, easy read, hard to put down.

    I have read most of Maeve Binchy's books and haven't been disappointed an any one of them. Love it when I can find one I haven't read yet.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 25, 2012

    Not one of my favorites

    I read about three quarters of this book and put it down. I'm not sure I'll finish it unless I get a renewed spirt of interest. This is the second book by this author and I didn't care for the other one so I'll probably not purchase anymore.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2011

    Don't buy if you live in Canada

    I live in Canada and bought this book. When I tried to download it, I got a message that said my computer is not authorized to download this book. I contacted Barnes and Noble and didn't even get a response from them. If you live in Canada I wouldn't buy anything from Barnes and Noble and their customer service leaves alot to be desired. I can't review this book because I can't read it.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Awful

    She's loaded this up with cutesy, hardly-believable characters and way too many subplots. I'm done with Maeve. Enjoyed her in the past, but no longer.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 10, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Another wonderful Binchy story

    With the US health care raging in the background, and everyone saying how it will be awful it we have to be like the "other"countries, it was a heartwarming and reassuring to see the "other" countries DO take care of their population also. Important health care issues, provider issues, family issues dealing with those with a heath care disability and even illness forcing life change issues are all encompassed in this story. Thrown in this story are also life as a single working parent, teenagers and health care politics, making it a very timely and wonderful read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    another great novel from Ireland's queen of fiction: Maeve Binchy

    Heart and Soul is a new paperback by Maeve Binchy. It is published by Orion and its ISBN is 1409102319. Maeve Binchy is my favourite author so my expectations were very high and I was not disappointed. She makes something complex look very easy and that is her great skill and strength. She writes of ordinary people with ordinary problems in a compassionate and easy to read fashion. Somehow their lives interweave to make the tale complete. Occasionally she reintroduces old characters into her novels and she has done that here with great ease. This tale is all heart and appropriately it is set in a Dublin heart clinic. The novel is mainly about the first year of St. Brigid's heart clinic. Dr. Clara Casey initially takes on the role as head of cardiology for a year and she sets about acquiring competent and cheerful staff. Soon the clinic becomes an integral part of the community and a symbol of hope. The story examines Dr. Casey's hectic life, her staffs lives and their patients and their interactions with one another and of course their romances. This is not a sad tale of illness but a story of hope and managing cardiac illness to live a fulfilled life.
    Reviewed by Annette Dunlea author of The Honey Trap and Always and Forever

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2009

    Heart and Soul - touches the reader's soul

    A lovely story and read, especially on a rainy, cold day.
    Lots of characters, but they are well developed and not too difficult to follow. Ms. Binchy's story shows the changing face of Ireland and the difficulties and opportunities that represents. The main plot is still the basis of life through the ages, finding, developing and keeping meaninful relationships and a purpose in life.
    Her writing reminds me of my favorite author Roseamund Pilchner of
    Scotland.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2009

    Another gem in Maeve Binchy's crown.

    New characters and old friends appear in this story and each of them comes to life in Ms. Binchy's unforgetable style. It's like getting a news letter from home. Loved every minute of it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Cast of Characters

    This was one of Maeve Binchy's best. The blending of characters from previous books made the reader feel like a walk down "memory lane." The story was riveting from the first page until the very end. If you want a book you literally can't put down, this is it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    One of her better books

    I really enjoyed this book. I liked the way she intermingled all the characters. She was able to write so you could keep the different characters straight and yet they went on with their daily life. I enjoyed the way she intertwined the lives of each of the main characters. There were some that had many faults and she was not afraid to bring these out... I liked the ending because it brought everyone together and finished the book up nicely. I would highly recommend this book as a good read to my friends

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 2, 2014

    Predictable pat and sappy. No conflict that isn't just quickly t

    Predictable pat and sappy. No conflict that isn't just quickly toed up with a sugary bow in a few pages. Focus please!  not all over the plots that you can imagine as a writer. Reminded me go a good fourth grade girl's idea of writing a story.  

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2013

    Catching up with old friends

    I just read 'minding frankie' and realized I had missed something along the way so went back and found this one, enjoyed it greatly, her writing can plod along at times or wander a bit but its kind of a gentle reminder to take a break and enjoy whats around me. Shes big on relationships and I love the strength of the obes she develops throughout each story. Declan was darling and I wanted to wrap him up and bring him home.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2012

    N ttyuy. B b

    ?.a

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