Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Evening Class by Maeve Binchy

73. Evening Class
by Maeve Binchy
fiction, 1996
second reading
Kindle book - 17
finished, 12/14/10

When I wrote my book report on Scarlet Feather, Raidergirl left me a comment saying that Evening Class was her favorite Maeve Binchy book. I read it many years ago, and her note prompted me to read it again and I decided to buy it for the Kindle. I had a fond memory of it, though it was tinged with a feeling I couldn't quite put my finger on. As I read Evening Class, I came upon the section that had caused the negative impression. One of the characters was abused in the past. I still found this very difficult to read, but thankfully it wasn't too long.

Herein we read the first mention of Quentins, a Dublin restaurant whose owners and employees come up again in the books to follow, including a book all its own, called Quentins. I absolutely love this in an author's work; books that aren't necessarily a series, but that do have a connection one to another.

The chapters in Evening Class are each devoted to one character. We meet Aidan Dunne who wants to be the new head of the school where he has worked as a devoted Latin teacher for many years, but who sadly doesn't have what it takes to lead. We meet Tony O'Brien who gets this job, and who just happens to be in love with Dunne's daughter. Tony very thoughtfully leads Dunne toward setting up and organizing an evening class, something which he has wanted to do, and which preserves his self-esteem and gives him a new lease on life. The rest of the characters are the people who take the class, and the teacher herself, Nora O'Donoghue known as Signora. She is an Irish woman who has lived in Italy for many years to be near the man she loves, who was married to an Italian woman. When he dies she comes back to her native country, and teaching this class offers her a new beginning. Each person in the class is changed by this simple act of studying the Italian language and culture a couple nights a week. The course ends with a trip to Italy.

Evening Class is another lovely Maeve Binchy book. The author is a great storyteller. She endows her characters with a sense of hope and promise for the future even if their pasts haven't been so wonderful.

It appears that I will be building a library of Maeve Binchy books on my Kindle. They make for excellent bedtime reading, which is when I use the Kindle. I am hoping to read several for The Ireland Reading Challenge. Next up will be a reread of Quentins. And even though I've said I like the later Maeve Binchy books better, I am thinking that I may just go back to the earlier books and read them all again.

I came upon this article from The Globe and Mail in which Maeve Binchy talks about her own love of reading. I like her reading reward system, and may adapt it to my own life!


  1. Enjoying the picture of Maeve Binchy in her office and am reminded of how much I love looking at pictures of other people's book shelves! Do you find that interesting as well? I keep a magnifying glass handy to scan the shelves I see in magazines. I think ones own library, even if it is just a shelf, tells so much about the owner. And to scan the shelves of an author, especially one you admire, is a treasure.

  2. Ah OK, I think this post just answered the question I left on your previous post; hope you see this before you answer that one ;>)... I'm pretty sure I've read this one....

    Happy New Year!

  3. Sallie, oh well. that's okay. It was a good question. Wishing the same to you!

  4. I read "Evening Class" years ago and liked it, but I think that's the only Maeve Binchy I've ever read. Life at the Italian village for the Signora was portrayed in a way I could relate to quite well, having spent a lot of time on Sicily during my first marriage.
    So Jill likes to look at other people's book shelves? I am making a mental note to myself :-)

  5. I would like to read her this year..any suggestions on a title? I think I may have read the glass lake but it was so long ago I can't remember.

  6. I think one of the reasons why I liked Evening Class so much is that it was one of the first books I'd read that had the rotating narrator. I just loved how all the stories came together, and we got to see them from different perspectives.
    Aiden and Signora are mentioned in her latest book, Minding Frankie. Not big, and if you hadn't read Evening Class, it wouldn't make a difference, but if you had, it just adds another layer of goodness.

    Plus, as you say, Binchy gives her characters such hope regardless of their past.
    For a number of years, I reread Evening Class each year. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  7. I have always thought I'd like reading Binchy, but still haven't gotten around to it. I also really love reading books that aren't exactly a series, but have connections to others the author has written. It's almost exciting to encounter someone I've known before -- it feels like a gift!

  8. Jill, I adore that picture!! I am exactly the same way about people's bookshelves.

    Librarian, it sure sounded lovely there.

    Hip Chick, well, Scarlet Feather is my favorite, but if you are interested in the connections in later books, Evening Class would be a good place to begin. Or the Christmas book. Or you could begin right at the beginning. Go to fantastic fiction for a list in order of publication.

    Raidergirl, that's exactly it! The way their stories intertwine - I love it. Thank you for your original note which prompted me to read it again!

    Kiirstin, what a great way to put it! A gift is so right!

  9. It's been years since I've read Maeve Binchy and this one was excellent. My favorite though is probably the first one I ever read - Circle of Friends.

  10. JoAnn, thanks for the reminder. I haven't read that one in a long time, and shall this coming year, I hope.


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