You can always rely on Maeve Binchy for a good, satisfying, heartwarming read. I’ve complained in a previous review that some of her latest novels, though categorized as novels rather than short story collections, are really more like collections of linked short stories. Heart and Soul follows a similar pattern, focusing on the staff and patients at a Dublin cardiac care clinic through the first year of the clinic’s operation. The book follows several storylines as various characters interact and deal with their own different kinds of “heart problems.”
I’m slowly starting to realize that Binchy’s last several books — going back at least as far as Evening Class to include Scarlet Feather, Quentin’s, Nights of Rain and Stars, Whitethorn Woods and possibly others I haven’t read, are all linked together, with characters from one book appearing in another and storylines left unresolved in an earlier book quietly picked up and completed in the next, sometimes on the fringes of the main action. These books together have created a community of characters, a microcosm of a modern-day Dublin that is, of course, romanticized but not lacking in realism either.
There was enough continuity between the different characters’ stories in Heart and Soul that I was able to enjoy the whole thing as a novel even while jumping from one story to another, and the book actually made me want to go back and reread some of the earlier ones to follow the characters’ story arcs more completely. I’ve decided to stop mourning the era of Maeve’s earlier novels, like Echoes and Circle of Friends, and embrace what she’s doing in her newer books, because I like that sense of the characters forming a huge extended family and their lives touching each other’s lives. As always, a satisfying though not challenging read.