Government drone by day and book lover and geek girl by night!
It's weird. I started off reading this book years and years ago. It was published back in 2008 and I just didn't like how it ended much. Binchy ended up changing up the ending, but I don't have that version in my Kindle version (grrrr) so I do know that she had a new ending that worked a lot better. That is the main reason why I gave this one 3 stars. We end up leaving a lot of characters in the lurch I thought. I also thought the whole thing with Clara and Hilary needing to "get" their two kids together was ridiculous. Additionally, the amount of jobs that the character Ania was working didn't even make sense since it sounded like at best she would only be getting about 2-3 hours of sleep. I know it was to show the contrast between Clara's one daughter, but it was a bit much.
Heart & Soul follows characters that many Binchy fans have been reading about for years. We have Aiden and Signora popping up (Evening Class (96) and Quentins (2002), Brenda (from Evening Class and Quentins), Grania and Tony (Evening Class), Fiona, Barbara, David, Vonni (Nights of Rain and Stars 2004), Maud, Simon, Cathy Feather (Scarlett Feather 2000) and Father Flynn (Whitehorn Woods 2006) and probably a whole host of other people I have forgotten.
We also have some new ones like Clara Casey, the new director of a heart clinic and Ania, a young Polish immigrant living in Dublin.
Though Binchy doesn't call out characters by chapter heading in this one, we do go back and forth to characters within chapters sometimes. So if we start off with Clara, we may also include another character like her daughter, her ex-husband, etc. I didn't mind it at all in this one, but I think I miss that we could just stick with a character through one sitting instead of bouncing around a lot with them. I found all of the characters to be good, but I was really happy with the follow up to Fiona and Barbara. I had really liked Fiona in Nights of Rain and Stars and we see that she has totally changes from who she was after the events from her last relationship that was depicted in that book.
As I said above though. I had a bit of an issue with Clara in parts of this book. We find out that she has been long separated from a cheating spouse who wants to divorce and marry his partner of several years. I know it wasn't great, but her reaction to it wasn't great either. I liked that she realized that her friends and family were tired of her hanging on to the guy and she needed to move on from him. She starts a new relationship in this one, that left me feeling meh, and it was good to see her realize that too. Her fighting with her daughter Linda though made me scratch my head. Her thinking that she needed to get married and settled with Hilary's son made me want to go huh. This was written in 2008, not 1988, so I didn't get why she thought her 21 year old daughter needed to settle down.
Ania's story was sad at first. We meet her and she's barely hanging on doing odd jobs in Dublin to obtain money to send back to her mother. We don't know what happened to her in Poland, but hints are it wasn't great. When Binchy reveals her tale, it was okay and all, but not Earth shattering. I just thought it was a bit much that Ania works at the heart clinic, at the laundromat, at a restaurant, helps with landscaping, etc. At one point I felt myself getting panicky at her jobs that she was doing. And her acting as if everything was super expensive (like some lace for sleeves on a dress) was making me go okay after a while. Ania is set up as some perfect person, but I was left a bit cold towards to her while reading.
We follow a new doctor named Declan in this one and we get to see his romance with someone that readers are familiar with (no spoilers). I liked Declan okay, but liked to see him push back on things later on in the book. He seemed a bit too perfect to me at first.
Hilary's story I found sad. I don't know if Binchy was going for clueless with her, but I definitely felt she was. We find out that she married a perfectly charming and handsome man who never worked. Her poor mother went and got more jobs to support them all (Hilary and her son Nick too) and Hilary works more to help. Things don't go well in Hilary's life I thought when we see that her mother is having some medical issues.
Father Flynn who popped up in Whitehorn Woods shows up here and his whole storyline was weird I thought. Leaving that one alone.
The book going back to Vonni in Greece and Aiden and Signora caused it to drag for me a lot too.
The writing was okay, but I am realizing that the flow wasn't great. Binchy jumping from character to character within a chapter didn't work as well for me in this one. I was looking forward to the ending which isn't like me usually.
The setting of the book revolves around the heart clinic doctors, patients, and friends of patients or doctors working there. Maybe if we stayed focused on the staff it would have worked more. It would still be nice to read about characters that were introduced in prior books still, but we could have focused on new characters more.
The book ends with a wedding and just kind of ends. I liked the new ending ( I happened to read it in a new paperback release one day at the bookstore) that showed some characters after the wedding and what something new is going on with all of them.