Saturday, April 24, 2010

Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy

Once upon a time, I read every book Maeve Binchy had written. I recommended her books to a friends on the premise that her plots are "innocent." The friend in question read one book and informed me I was insane. She wondered how I could describe books whose plots revolved around abortion, affairs, and love lost could be described as innocent. I stand by my stance. While the characters very often fall under the spell of poor romantic choices, the outcome includes the antagonist getting his (or her, although it is quite often a man) just desserts and the protagonist feeling vindicated.

Heart and Soul is Binchy's most recent work and not only are the protagonists rewarded for their innate goodness, Binchy has gone back to previous books and brought in characters from many past novels and caught the reader up on their lives. Individuals from Quentins, Scarlet Feather, and Whitethorn Woods, among others, all meet through the experiences of the employees of a Dublin heart clinic.

Binchy does a great job of telling a remarkably comprehensive story from the viewpoint of at least a half a dozen characters. Each chapter starts with the perspective of a different individual. At times the stories seem only tangentially connected to the main plot; other chapters push forward the success of the heart clinic. By the end of the novel all of the characters have interwoven stories that coalesce into a logical conclusion.

There are very few true antagonists in Heart and Soul - a racist old lady and a womanizing foreigner. The story is undeniably a syrupy romance. All of the characters who deserve to find love do. After the last couple of dark books I have read recently Maeve Binchy's Heart and Soul was a breath of fresh air - and it is very innocent.

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