Monday, April 27, 2009

Fiction: Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy

“I think I was dealt a good hand,” Maeve Binchy told the UK’s Saga magazine last year. “I have happy genes.” That would explain a lot. Despite the fact that her books seldom have happy endings, there is a positive beat at the heart of each one. Maeve Binchy’s books, then, would seem to have happy genes, as well.

The latest of these is Heart and Soul (Knopf), which, boiled down to its essence, is the story of St. Brigid’s Hospital, a heart clinic in Ireland. But this is Binchy -- classic Binchy -- and so, of course, there is more.

In one way, the clinic itself is a kind of moral center and the people who inhabit it -- doctors, nurses, residents, out-patients -- are its community. If we follow the metaphor, Dr. Clara Casey -- newly arrived as the book begins -- is the clinic’s spiritual leader. It is through them that we see the growth and feel the change that can happen when many hearts beat for the same goal.

Heart and Soul is classic Binchy, here in top form. Now almost 70, the author recently told The Irish Herald that both she and her husband are battling heart disease:
The much-loved writer has put her writing on hold to look after her husband who is recovering from a serious operation.

And Maeve has revealed that her own health is ailing and that she regularly attends a “heart failure clinic”.

However, the Dalkey-based author said that her main focus has been on caring for her husband, Gordon Snell, who had an operation just over a month ago.

“Gordon had a bypass but he’s grand after it,” revealed Maeve. “He’s now able to go out and go for a walk. He had it over a month ago.”
It seems likely that at least some of the research for Heart and Soul was done at uncomfortably close quarters. The book does not suffer for it: fans will adore Heart and Soul, quite possibly the book of Binchy’s own heart.



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