Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy
This was also from the spring library book sale. It’s a hardcover (most of the library books are). To be honest, it felt weird to be reading Maeve Binchy in hardcover. Every other Binchy I’ve read has been a mass market paperback, and that definitely feels like how they should be read.
Back in the day (high school/university), I read a lot of Binchy, but I haven’t read any in a long time.
The first Binchy I read was Light a Penny Candle (her first novel). I have a strong memory of sitting at the kitchen counter reading the mass market paperback version, completely addicted. This would be when LaPC was fresh in paperback (1983/4, Amazon tells me). My mom was reading it and I picked it up. I don’t even think she was finished reading it, but I just couldn’t put it down. Totally engrossing. Re-read it a bunch of times.
Heart and Soul wasn’t like that at all. It was pleasant, but that’s about it. She still makes you believe in her characters and their world, but the story is lacking.
First, there are too many characters. Each gets a chapter or so of attention, so there’s not enough time to get attached to anyone.
Second, it relies too much on prior knowledge. The book is chock-full of cameos from Binchy’s prior books. I could tell that, by the way she mentioned the characters and because some of the names were vaguely familiar, but I read her previous books too long ago for them to have any real meaning for me.
Third, there’s no conflict. Oh, there’s some faux-conflict, but it’s all essentially misunderstandings. Everyone’s nice! It all works out in the end! I think she can’t be mean to her characters anymore. And that’s a problem. Writers need to be able to be mean to their characters.
In conclusion, I know it’s in part nostalgia for a time when all did was devour paperbacks, but I think her early books were much better than this one. I should re-read Light a Penny Candle to confirm.