Evening Class by Maeve Binchy 5 stars
Summary (from Amazon): In Evening Class, Binchy zooms in on the working-class of Dublin. Schoolteacher Aidan Dunne organizes an evening class in Italian with the help of Nora O'Donoghue, an Irishwoman returning home after 26 years in Sicily. When the somewhat squashed-by-life denizens of the surrounding neighborhood take the unexpected step of enrolling in the class, they find their lives transformed.
My thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I'll definitely be checking out more Maeve Binchy, whom I'd also thought I'd like to read. I like books where all of the characters are connected in the end and this had that in spades. I didn't realize it would focus on 8 characters, though, when I started, I thought it would be all about Signora, but then each section was named for a new person and people from previous sections started appearing and I was really interested to see how they would all come together. Each section could almost be a short story in itself and still be enjoyable, but it was much better to have them all connected. The device for the coming together was a trip to Rome for the class - it was so lovely that everyone enjoyed the class so much and made it a success when the school officials thought it would be a waste of time.
I'd love to have a Signora (what Nora was called in Italy) in my life - she had a wonderfully gentle way of making things right without people even really noticing that's what she was doing. It really is a "tale about ordinary people that brings out the extraordinary in everyone" - some of the characters are only mentioned in the background of the evening class at first and then when their chapter comes, you discover all kinds of secrets and sacrifices and loves and hates and hidden depths.
Of course, I knew everything would end happily (or unhappily for those that deserved it), but hooray for that, say I. I'm a big happy ending fan.
What I learned about Raidergirl: From her post about this one I learned that she visited Italy last year, and I'm envious! I already knew we had some similar reading tastes (I've picked 3 of her books!) and this proved it again - I'm an even bigger fan of hers now! Thanks for sharing this lovely story.