Evening Class

Evening Class

by Maeve Binchy

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reprint)

$8.99 View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Wednesday, October 23


It was the quiet ones you had to watch. That's where the real passion was lurking.

They came together at Mountainview College, a down-at-the-heels secondary school on the seamy side of Dublin, to take a course in Italian. It was Latin teacher Aidan Dunne's last chance to revive a failing marriage and a dead-end career. But Aidan's dream was headed for disaster until the mysterious Signora appeared, transforming a shared passion for Italy into a life-altering adventure for them all . . . bank clerk Bill and his dizzy fiance Lizzie: a couple headed for trouble . . . Kathy, a hardworking innocent propelled into adulthood in a shocking moment of truth . . . Connie, the gorgeous rich lady with a scandal ready to explode . . . glowering Lou, who joined the class as a cover for crime. And Signora, whose passionate past remained a secret as she changed all their lives forever. . . .

From the New York Times bestselling author of This Year It Will Be Different, The Glass Lake, and Circle of Friends, comes a novel filled with Maeve Binchy's signature warmth, wit, and sheer storytelling genius—a spellbinding tale of men and women whose quiet lives hide the most unexpected things. . . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440223207
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/28/1998
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 254,476
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.87(h) x 1.36(d)
Lexile: 780L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Maeve Binchy is the bestselling author of This Year It Will Be Different, The Glass Lake, The Copper Beech, The Lilac Bus, Circle of Friends, Silver Wedding, Firefly Summer, Echoes, Light a Penny Candle, and London Transports. She has written two plays and a teleplay that won three awards at the Prague Film Festival. A writer for The Irish Times since 1969, she lives with her husband, writer and broadcaster Gordon Snell, in London and Dublin.


Dublin, Ireland, and London, England

Date of Birth:

May 28, 1940

Place of Birth:

Dalkey, a small village outside Dublin, Ireland


Holy Child Convent in Killiney; B.A. in history, University College, Dublin, 1960

Read an Excerpt


For years, yes years, when Nora O'Donoghue lived in Sicily, she had received no letter at all from home.

She used to look hopefully at il postino as he came up the little street under the hot blue sky. But there was never a letter from Ireland, even though she wrote regularly on the first of every month to tell them how she was getting on. She had bought carbon paper; it was another thing hard to describe and translate in the shop where they sold writing paper and pencils and envelopes. But Nora needed to know what she had told them already, so that she would not contradict herself when she wrote. Since the whole life she described was a lie, she might as well make it the same lie. They would never reply, but they would read the letters. They would pass them from one to the other with heavy sighs, raised eyebrows, and deep shakes of the head. Poor stupid, headstrong Nora who couldn't see what a fool she had made of herself, wouldn't cut her losses and come back home.

"There was no reasoning with her," her mother would say.

"The girl was beyond help and showed no remorse" would be her father's view. He was a very religious man, and in his eyes the sin of having loved Mario outside marriage was greater far than having followed him out to the remote village of Annunziata even when he had said he wouldn't marry her.

If she had known that they wouldn't get in touch at all, she would have pretended that she and Mario were married. At least her old father would have slept easier in his bed and not feared so much the thought of meeting God and explaining the mortal sin of his daughter's adultery.

But then she would not have been able to do that because Mario had insisted on being upfront with them.

"I would love to marry your daughter," he had said, with his big dark eyes looking from her father to her mother backward and forward. "But sadly, sadly it is not possible. My family want me very much to marry Gabriella and her family also want the marriage. We are Sicilians; we can't disobey what our families want. I'm sure it is very much the same in Ireland." He had pleaded for an understanding, a tolerance and almost a pat on the head.

He had lived with their daughter for two years in London. They had come over to confront him. He had been in his own mind admirably truthful and fair. What more could they want of him?

Well, they wanted him gone from her life, for one thing.

They wanted Nora to come back to Ireland and hope and pray that no one would ever know of this unfortunate episode in her life, or her marriage chances, which were already slim would be further lessened.

She tried to make allowances for them. It was 1969, but then they did live in a one-horse town; they even thought coming up to Dublin was an ordeal. What had they made of their visit to London to see their daughter living in sin, and then accept the news that she would follow this man to Sicily?

The answer was they had gone into complete shock and did not reply to her letters.

She could forgive them. Yes, part of her really did forgive them, but she could never forgive her two sisters and two brothers. They were young; they must have understood love, though to look at the people they had married you might wonder. But they had all grown up together, struggled to get out of the lonely, remote little town where they lived. They had shared the anxiety of their mother's hysterectomy, their father's fall on the ice that had left him frail. They had always consulted each other about the future, about what would happen if either Mam or Dad were left alone. Neither could manage. They had all agreed that the little farm would be sold and the money used to keep whoever it was that was left alive in a flat in Dublin somewhere adjacent to them all.

Nora realized that her having decamped to Sicily didn't suit that longterm plan at all. It reduced the help force by more than twenty percent. Since Nora wasn't married the others would have assumed that she might take sole charge of a parent. She had reduced the help force by one hundred percent. Possibly that was why she never heard from them. She assumed that they would write and tell her if either Mam or Dad was very ill, or even had died.

But then sometimes she didn't know if they would do that. She seemed so remote to them, as if she herself had died already. So she relied on a friend, a good, kind friend called Brenda, who had worked with her in the hotel business. Brenda called from time to time to visit the O'Donoghues. It was not difficult for Brenda to shake her head with them over the foolishness of their daughter Nora. Brenda had spent days and nights trying to persuade, cajole, warn, and threaten Nora about how unwise was her plan to follow Mario to his village of Annunziata and face the collective rage of two families.

Brenda would be welcome in that house because nobody knew she kept in touch and told the emigrant what was happening back home. So it was through Brenda that Nora learned of new nieces and nephews, of the outbuilding on the farmhouse, of the sale of three acres, and the small trailer that was now attached to the back of the family car. Brenda wrote and told her how they watched television a lot, and had been given a microwave oven for Christmas by their children. Well, by the children they acknowledged.

Brenda did try to make them write. She had said she was sure Nora would love to hear from them; it must be lonely for her out there. But they had laughed and said: "Oh, no, it wasn't at all lonely for Lady Nora, who was having a fine time in Annunziata, living the life of Reilly with the whole place probably gossiping about her and ruining the reputation of all Irish women in front of these people."

Brenda was married to a man that they had both laughed at years back, a man called Pillow Case, for some reason they had all forgotten. They had no children and they both worked in a restaurant now. Patrick, as she now called Pillow Case, was the chef and Brenda was the manageress. The owner lived mainly abroad and was content to leave it to them. She wrote that it was as good as having your own place without the financial worries. She seemed content, but then perhaps she wasn't telling the truth either.

Nora certainly never told Brenda about how it had turned out; the years of living in a place smaller than the village she had come from in Ireland and loving the man who lived across the little piazza, a man who could come to visit her only with huge subterfuge, and as the years went on he made less and less effort to try to find the opportunities.

Nora wrote about the beautiful village of Annunziata and its white buildings where everyone had little black wrought-iron balconies and filled them with pots of geraniums or busy lizzies, but not just one or two pots like at home, whole clusters of them. And how there was a gate outside the village where you could stand and look down on the valley. And the church had some lovely ceramics that visitors were coming to visit more and more.

Mario and Gabriella ran the local hotel and they did lunches now for visitors and it was very successful. Everyone in Annunziata was pleased because it meant that other people, like wonderful Signora Leone who sold postcards and little pictures of the church, and Nora's great friends Paulo and Gianna, who made little pottery dishes and jugs with Annunziata written on them, made some money, And people sold oranges and flowers from baskets. And even she, Nora, benefited from the tourists since as well as making her lace-trimmed handkerchiefs and table runners for sale, she also gave little guided tours for English-speaking visitors. She took them round the church and told of its history, and pointed out the places in the valley where there had been battles and possibly Roman settlements and certainly centuries of adventure.

She never found it necessary to tell Brenda about Mario and Gabriella's children, five of them in all, with big dark eyes looking at her suspiciously with sullen downcast glances from across the piazza. Too young to know who she was and why she was hated and feared, too knowing to think she was just another neighbor and friend.

Since Brenda and Pillow Case didn't have any children of their own, they wouldn't be interested in these handsome, unsmiling Sicilian children who looked across from the steps of their family hotel at the room where Signora sat sewing and surveying all that passed by.

That's what they called her in Annunziata, just Signora. She had she was a widow when she arrived. It was so like her own name I anyway, she felt she had been meant to be called that always.

And even had there been anyone who truly loved her and cared a her life, how hard it would have been to try to explain what her life like in this village. A place she would have scorned if it were back in Ireland, no cinema, no dance hall, no supermarket, the local bus irregular and the journeys when it did arrive positively endless.

But here she loved every stone of the place because it was where Mario lived and worked and sang in his hotel, and eventually raised his sons and daughters, and smiled up at her as she sat sewing in her window. She would nod at him graciously, not noticing as the years went by. And the passionate years in London that ended in 1969 were long forgotten by everyone except Mario and Signora.

Of course, Mario must have remembered them with love and longing and regret as she did, otherwise why would he have stolen into her bed some nights using the key that she had made for him. Creeping across the dark square when his wife was asleep. She knew never to expect him on a night there was a moon. Too many other eyes might have seen a figure crossing the piazza and known that Mario was wandering from the wife to the foreign woman, the strange foreign woman with the big wild eyes and long red hair.

Occasionally Signora asked herself was there any possibility that she could be mad, which was what her family at home thought and was almost certainly the view of the citizens of Annunziata.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Evening Class 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 reviews.
Coconut_Library More than 1 year ago
Evening Class was my second encounter with Maeve Binchy. I am getting very fond of her. There is something about her way of writing; I don't realize that I am hooked until I've taken a moment away from the book and feel as though I'm missing something! She is so subtle, that Maeve. I found the main characters likable and entertaining. The way that Binchy combines their individual stories (within the larger story) is wonderful and thorough. I find myself wanting to jump on a plane and join them in Dublin. Each chapter is from a different person's point of view (as it was in Heart and Soul), and that actually suits this sometimes ADD reader more than I thought it would. Although I have found in the past that this is not my ideal for storytelling, something about the way that Binchy includes other story lines in each subplot, and brings them all back to the bigger story makes her writing delightful. Once again the author delivered a heartwarming, feel good, entertaining novel. (originally posted on www.coconutlibrary.typepad.com)
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love the way Ms. Binchy goes into each character in the book, nestled in between each character is the story of the leading characters......and how they all intertwine in some way. I think she's my new favorite author !
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was my first Binchy novel and I couldn't put it down. It was a wonderful story. I just bought 'Circle of Friends'. I look forward to reading it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the story.. Will now read this author. Read it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was my first book by this author. I thiroughly enjiyed reading it. She has a keen sense of pulling yiu into the stiry and feel like you really know the characters. When i finished i immediately ordered the next book, tara road.
Anya_Cohen More than 1 year ago
Maeve Binchy has an incredible gift of weaving multiple characters, none of whom have to be interconnected, into a plot that connects them all by the end. She captures Irish culture and lifestyle and shares it with a non-Irish world, making us want to catch the first plane to Dublin so we can taste it for ourselves. The average, ordinary activities of life - taking an evening class, for example - become the framework for everyday drama that breaks - and mends - your heart.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Characters were well developed as was the emerging story line. One felt like they too were part of the class. This was my first book by this author and leaves me wanting to read others works by this author.
Anonymous 8 months ago
I always enjoy her books....maybe too many characters that sometimes confused me.
eargent on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another great book by one of my favourite authors.
witchyrichy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't think I really like Binchy. But after reading two books in the past month or so, I must say I'm growing fond of her folky, story telling style. The characters are quirky enough not to be too predictable and you can anticipate a happy ending with everyone getting what they deserve.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fairly typical Maeve Binchy fare, this, although the structure is a little looser than some of her other novels. Each chapter focuses on a different character although they intermingle a little. I thought the story of the teacher and her tragic love affair in Italy was the best, though fans of Maeve Binchy will find much to enjoy in the well rounded characters and their individual stories throughout this book.
GrannyNanny on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book didn't appeal to me at first, but the more I read the more I got into the characters and how they came to know and love each other in the class.
carka on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My favorite Maeve Binchy book. I read this in 3 days; I couldn't get the characters out of my head and I was captivated by the way she wove each life into the next.Reading it again, I changed to 4 stars. Still really liked it, but perhaps because it was a re-read, it was more predictable, even though it had been more than 10 years since I first read it.
Bookshop_Lady on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is definitely one of Maeve Binchy's best novels. An evening class for adults, they're learning Italian and learning about each other. And then the class decides to travel to Italy as a group. Some of the characters will confront their pasts, others will discover their future, and some will come to terms with their present.Highly recommended.
LibrarysCat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I remember this book being a little sad and upsetting. I do not remember the first time I read this book or one of the other's written by Ms. Binchy and dealing with people in Ireland. I was engrossed by the stories, but more by the picture of the culture. I was very disappointed in the first of her books to take place elsewhere, as I think the cultural aspects of the novels are what drive the stories. Still I have read them time and again and always look at her new works to see the subjects. I almost always give them a try and am rarely disappointed by the books where she talks about what she knows.
jackybushell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like most of Maeve Binchy's books I enjoyed this book very much although I'm often not keen on books set out abroad in Europe. I was a bit disappointed with the ending of this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maeve manages to masterfully bring together a group of characters in an interesting and cohesive plot
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kdooo ?Ppp0plllll
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writing was well done, the characters interesting, the story all came together. If you are learning Italian, this is especially appealing. Some of the characters in this book appear in other Maeve Binchy books, so you get to fill out their life stories. Also: every crisis is resolved, and there is always a happy ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago