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It's difficult to say anything negative about Maeve Binchy books. How can one fault books that are as warm and comfortable as a big fluffy blanket? True, there are some that are definitely better than others, some characters you care about more than others, but when all is said and done you always come away from reading a Binchy book appreciating the humor, compassion and Irish spirit that permeates each page.

In HEART AND SOUL, Binchy utilizes an underfunded heart clinic as the focal point for the intersecting lives of her characters. Although the publishers review would have you believe that this is the story of Dr. Clara Casey whose job it is to set up the clinic, the truth of the matter is that hers is just the tasty crust of this pie. The intersecting stories of the clinic staff and the patients they care for are the sweet and satisfying filling and together they present a tasty treat for your reading palate.

Die hard fans will recognize several characters from previous tomes like Night of Wind and Stars, Evening Class, Scarlett Feather and Quentins. While some make fleeting appearances, others like nurse Fiona Ryan (who was one of the co-stars in Night of Wind and Stars) have their stories come full circle with an outcome tied up in a big red bow. Most interesting among the newcomers are the Polish immigrant, Anya, and the story of her ill fated affair with the man who "used and abused" her. Others like Carl and his overbearing mother Rosemary, Declan the young doctor, and Hillary the physical therapist are ordinary people whose ordinary lives and problems are ones we can all relate to.

Binchy is the queen of multiple story lines and HEART AND SOUL takes the reader on a voyeuristic trip into the lives of its characters that is both enchanted and enchanting. The trip is sure to please and you don't even have to pack a bag.
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It's a sad day when an author you first discovered decades ago as a reliable purveyor of great escapist sagas can no longer deliver the goods the way he or she once did. But I must admit, reluctantly, the Maeve Binchy I once enjoyed - the author of everything from Light A Penny Candle to Scarlet Feather- is no more. In her place, someone is writing cute, but slight, feel-good tales set in a Binchy-like landscape.

The main problem with that perfunctory approach to writing and with this book is that the characters and the plot both get short shrift. Within a few pages, Clara Casey has taken on the challenge of running a new cardiac care center and met a winsome young Polish woman and hired her to help. The supporting cast is predictable and their various dilemmas resolved in as predictably heart-warming manner as you might expect from Binchy. Like her more disappointing recent offerings (Whitethorn Woods (Vintage), this book is less a novel than a series of interwoven short stories, each involving a character whose life is tied in some way to the heart clinic (a doctor falling in love with a nurse, a priest trying to save his reputation, Ania's romantic dilemma). But there's not much to sink your teeth into, plotwise, in either complexity or substance. Where is the author of Tara Road??? While Binchy's strength remains the exploration of ordinary, everyday family relationships and romantic or other entanglements that are resolved with a dose of commonsense, in this book those plot developments are telegraphed so far ahead that they become, ultimately, unsatisfying. It's not the first time Binchy's most recent novels have fallen short, exacerbating the level of disappointment.

Nor has Binchy created a whole new cast of characters for this novel. Some will find her decision to rope in past characters such as Signora, Aidan, Brenda, and the twins from Scarlet Feather, as a plus; it's certainly fun to see them in new settings and find out what has happened to them. Ultimately, to this reader at least, the approach backfired, emphasizing how much less meaty this book is than Binchy's previous offerings in which the characters first appeared.

I'd recommend this primarily for die-hard Binchy fans who won't mind the book's shortcomings, focusing instead on the trademark heart-warming (apologies for the pun!) narrative. But there are other Irish writers who have followed Binchy along this path, and I'd suggest checking out the writings of Cathy Kelly (Best of Friends) or even Sheila O'Flanagan (Too Good to be True).
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on April 23, 2009
I enjoyed this book but absolutely hated the adaptation to the Kindle. Spaces between words were missed making it difficult to read. I had to read and reread in parts because in some areas whole groups of words were strung together. There were also hyphens all over the place. I hardly think the publisher made these errors. Amazon should take more care in proofreading these adaptations.
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on February 23, 2009
Heart and Soul is truly what this is book is about. Maeve Binchy brings you into the lives and homes of each character and brings other characters back and makes them inter twine perfectly like a magnificiant tapestry. She creates a story in a heart clinic, pure genius! From the very first written word to the last you cannot put this book down. You are invited into the lives of each character you share their happiness and sorrow. You feel like you are right there, a part of this world. The simple things in life that we take for granted, Maeve Binchy reminds us of it. I have read every one of her books and hope she writes forever. Reading this book, I want to go back and re read them all. I want to go back and re visit the lives of Cathy and Tom Scarlett, how they met and what they went through together. Fiona, when she was in Greece, I feel like they are my old friends. Maeve Binchy's writing style captures you from the very start. I can never put her books down. The respect she has for people, life, love, her country and characters, to see it through her writing just takes you there. I can't wait for her next book.
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on June 17, 2009
I've read all of Maeve Binchy's books. I've really liked most of them; she had one or two that were okay, but no great shakes. This one was just plain not good. The story itself drags, wandering off in improbable directions. She made a start on the plot and characters, then spent so much time shoehorning in characters, places and bits from past books -- this story just got shoved aside. In her interview, Ms. Binchy said that she wanted to tie up some loose ends from previous stories. Bad idea. This wasn't the time or place for it. The dialogue in "Heart And Soul" had to be its worst point; stilted, awkward, uncomfortable and unbelievable -- nobody talks like these characters did. I felt as though the book was being read to me by someone learning to speak English. If you love absolutely anything Maeve Binchy writes, no matter what, then this is the book for you. If you're looking for a good story line, well-developed characters, depth of won't find it in "Heart And Soul".
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on March 9, 2009
Like most people reading these reviews, I love, love LOVE Maeve
Binchy books but this one not so much. I think she left too many unanswered questions. Or maybe she will write a sequel? In her current book she's added characters from previous books which I thought was cool. Don't pay full price for the hardbound copy of this book - wait and get it in paperback.
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on July 21, 2016
Every time I re-read one of Maeve Binchy's novels, I am transported to the wonderful locations about which she writes, and I fall in love all over again with her cast of perfectly realized flesh-and-blood characters. I feel again the loss of this wonderful author, and miss the excitement of reading a fresh new novel or story from her pen.

The story centers around the establishment of a new heart clinic in Dublin, and the people who come together to make it a successful and useful venture. I cannot recommend this book any higher to anyone who enjoys peaceful, pleasant reading, beautifully accomplished. Along with a visit in Dublin and the surrounding countryside, there are some brief side trips to other places, such as Poland, Greece, and Italy. This lovely book is definitely a trip worth taking. Vintage Binchy.
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on July 20, 2016
It is so refreshing to see such well defined characters and what a story teller Maeve Binchy is. I had the privilege of going to a book club in Dublin where Maeve was the featured speaker back in the mid 90's, and have been a fan ever since. Her writing rules were 1. Write what you know, 2. Write like you talk, 3. write every day, and 4. submit everything you write. Her books are so deeply immersed in her culture and are a real treat to read. Unfortunately Marve passed away in 2012. I urge you to read her treasure trove of novels.
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on March 10, 2009
I am a huge fan of Maeve Binchy! I have every one of her books, however, this one I found alittle boring and was disappointed. I waited and waited for her to come out with a new book...but was alittle let down.
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on November 23, 2008
Sarah Hoyt's trilogy about an alternate reality world, in which Charlemagne had a flunky steal two magic jewels from an idol in Darkest Africa and gave himself and his descendants magical powers comes to a smashing conclusion in Heart and Soul.

Having retrieved the Heart of Fire and the Soul of Fire, the principals must now return them to the African idol from which they came, and set the world right again.

We meet an unknowing earl, who threw away his priviledged life for love, an evil dragon, an evil tiger, some loyal foxes and a wild trip through the Chinese underworld where justice and mercy are tempered with fine good humor.

And in the end...well, you're just going to have to read the book for the ending.

Sarah Hoyt's writing just gets better with every book.

Walt Boyes
Associate Editor
Jim Baen's Universe
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