Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Maeve Binchy - Heart and Soul

Clara Casey has more than enough on her plate. Her daughters Adi and Linda were no problem during the usually turbulent teens. Now Adi is always fighting for or against something: the environment or the whale or battery farming; while Linda lurches from one unsatisfactory relationship to the next. As if this wasn't enough, Clara, a senior cardiac specialist, has a new job to cope with - and now her ex-husband wants something from her...
For Ania, meeting Clara Casey is a miracle. She never intended to leave Poland - but perhaps a new job in a new country will mend her broken heart? Declan is looking forward to joining the clinic - but what should have been a straightforward six-month posting brings him far more than he expected.
Then there's Father Brian Flynn, whose life is turned upside down when his reputation is threatened; and the beautiful, cheerful nurse, Fiona, who can't leave her troubled past behind...

Comment: Years ago, a friend gave me this book fr my birthday and I'm ashamed to say I only now picked it because I always had this idea the books by this author were dramatic and tragic.
I was proven wrong and although I don't consider this an author to follow religiously from now on, I had a good time reading this book.

In this book we follow the lives of a set of characters, all connected in some way although most of them work in a new clinic for heart diseases.
The main focus is on Clara, the responsible for the clinic for at least an year but who knows what will happen after that. While we follow what happens at work and in her home, we see how every character is important in the big scheme and how simple or complicated relationships can be, depending on one's behavior or choices.

I've written, in my small comment on this book in my goodreads page, that this book makes me think I could be sitting in a cozy cafe drinking tea and listening to gossip on all these characters. The writing style and the way this story develops is very segmented, the plot doesn't follow a linear flow, it's like we gave glimpses and moments in these people's lives and from chapter to chapter we see them getting one step further in their existence.

I feel the negative side of this is that, now that I've finished the novel, I never really connected with the characters. I'm not indifferent to them, but we just read about what they do and what they go through, we don't have time to bond with them, nor to feel they have evolved as characters.
The author's style clearly is telling a story, as if this is still a set of those tales of Irish tradition where the story teller just says it like it is, for the listener to make their own mind without the narrator putting their own ideas on anything.
The Portuguese cover
The problem of now being shown some things, then, is that the characters remain strangers and distant and very flat.

I shouldn't have liked reading this, then, since it doesn't go anywhere, all the actions the characters do are already premeditated, we just read about it. However, I was interested in reading, I wanted to see what they would do next - even if often predictable - and I wanted to see if the small things we couldn't foresee would happen one way or another.
The end was basic, nothing to gush about but after turning the last page, I felt like I just had known those characters for a little bit and that made me feel settled.

Despite the fact the chapters tend to focus on a character at a time and those closest, this is actually a web of connections related to the clinic where most of them work. I particularly liked the segments related to Ania, a polish emigrant who struggled at first with the language but turned out to be my favorite character in the story.
We do have a lot on the background of each character as the story moves along.

Some characters did show up, apparently from nowhere, who had been in other books by the author but I never felt like I had to read other things to follow this one.
While checking the author's book list (quite big, in fact) I saw there's another book that mentions two characters from this story. I'll definitely read that one to see how the connection is done. 
As for this book, no it's not the best thing ever nor is it as intricate as it could but I had a good time reading, as if just laying back and knowing what was going on with these people...
Grade: 7/10

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