Government drone by day and book lover and geek girl by night!
So I apologize in advance for not reviewing these books in the order of publication. I tend to go back again and again to my tried and true Binchy novels. I decided this year I will aim to at least post reviews for all of the books that I have read. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I enjoyed re-reading this book, Heart & Soul, and This Year it Will Be Different. There is something so homey with these books. At this time I have been reading about the same characters for more than a dozen years. I likened her a bit to Rosamunde Pilcher who returns to the same characters or references them in her other books. It's like a very nice present you get each book. That said, I thought that some of the character stories in this one were pretty adult. You have Binchy tackling marital rape (still rape), adultery, and theft. There are still some good heartwarming stories here and there though.
Evening Class starts out with Aiden Dunne realizing that his dream of becoming principal of Mountainview College is never going to happen. A new teacher, Tony O'Brien is who the administrators want as principal. Aiden doesn't know what he is going to do now and how he will be able to spin this to his family. Tony pushes him (for his own reasons) to do a potential evening class that Aiden recommends in order to bring in people to the school.
Once again Binchy does a good job of setting up the stories of the people who will end up attending this evening class. We know that at least 30 people sign up, but we ultimately only follow Aiden, Signora (real name is Nora), Bill, Kathy, Lou, Connie, Laddy, and Fiona.
Per usual I think my favorite sections to read about were Aiden, Signora, and Connie.
I felt for Aiden since he is realizing that his wife (Nell) and two daughters (Grania and Brigid) have grown apart through the years. His wife is barely home, his two daughters don't really talk to him, and he is starting to realize that he is middle-aged with the possibility of this being his life until the day he passes. Him organizing and taking the evening class which will ultimately teach its participants Italian allows him to think about his life in a totally different way. His burgeoning friendship with the teacher, Signora, always allows Aiden to dream about something new. I did get frustrated with Aiden a bit, because I felt like he was just way too clueless about a lot of things going on. He was a bit passive, except a few times in the story. I was ultimately happy with how Binchy concludes his story in this book.
Signora was interesting. Usually I would despise this type of character. At the age of 20 something, Signora met an Italian boy named Mario and proceeded to defy her family and follow him to Sicily. While there, Signora finds out that Mario is to be married. She still decides to stay and be Mario's other woman for more than 20 years. When Mario dies in an accident, she is asked to leave by his wife and children and Signora finally returns home. Ireland has moved on while she was away so Signora has trouble finding a place to live and work. When she ends up teaching Italian at Mountainview College it seems her prayers are answered. I felt a bit for Signora's family. They don't sound great, but I can see why her family was a bit put out with her. She ended up reconnecting with her best friend from years ago, Brenda, who runs the ever popular Quentins, so that was good. I did read Quentins years ago, but will do a re-read to post a review.
Connie's story was something else though. A young girl who had it all until her father died leaving her family penniless. Being forced to give up her dream of being a lawyer, she goes to a secretarial school where she ends up avoiding men. She eventually meets someone that she thinks will be a perfect husband and father, Harry Kane. Connie thinks that her life will be perfect, but there a ton of wrenches thrown in the way. I liked how Connie pushed through them though I did wish that the character had went to therapy. There definitely seemed to be something going on with her. I did love how Binchy wrapped up one part of her story. I didn't really like the whole thing that went down with her when the group gets to Italy though.
The other characters are interesting, I just didn't like them as much as the others. I just felt like Bill was being a pushover, and a jerk at times (his realization of him having to be his younger sister's caregiver after his parents are gone just made me dislike him a bit). Kathy's story was okay, just not that engaging. I though Lou was a jerk honestly when we find out what he was getting up to. And Laddy's story was just sad to me. Honestly it should have been called Rose's story (Laddy's sister) since the story focused on her and what she had to deal with as a married woman.
The writing was really good. Binchy has a way with words that just draws you in. I always love reading her works in the fall/winter because that always seems to be the time of year to me that is best to read her works. The flow was a bit up and down though between character chapters. That and me not being as engaged with the different characters stories is why I gave this one 4 stars.
The setting is Ireland in the late 90s I imagine. Evening Class was first published in 1996, but I got this book back in April 2009. Some parts of the book felt a bit dated to me then with discussions of one of Aiden's daughters working in a travel agency. I honestly don't know if there are travel agencies anymore.
The ending leaves things with a newfound hope and joy for two of the characters. And some of them are definitely in a new stage of their lives like Fiona and Lou.