Aden Dunn, a teacher in an Irish secondary school, hopes to become school principal. But someone else gets the post, and partly to salve his feelings, allows Aden to start up an evening class teaching Italian to adults. Rather to everyone's surprise, it turns out to be a success, due in no small part to the teacher, "Signora", who has returned home to Ireland after living in Italy for twenty odd years. This looks at various characters in turn, telling their stories and showing how they came to attend the class, before following their adventures as they all go on a holiday to Italy.
The structure of this book was somewhat like early Susan Howatch books: each chapter told the story of one of the characters from their point of view. And like the Howatch books, you get more and more interested in the story until, when the next chapter comes, you feel disappointed to be leaving that person. But again like the Howatch books, you soon get interested in the next character.
What was striking about this book (which was a lot better than Firefly Summer) was how warm (sentimental?) the portrayal of each character was. Even those who had led less than perfect lives were sympathetically portrayed and you couldn't help feel affection to them. In fact I think I spent most of the book with either a smile on my face or a tear in my eye as they encountered and dealt with the obstacles that life threw at them. By the time the group got to Italy, you knew many of the characters very well and you feel really pleased for them that they're having such a good time.
This was a really enjoyable read. The ending was a happy one, and I think epitomised the overall feel of the story, in that while there was a marriage break-up, it happened in such a way that no-one was hurt. Perhaps Binchy's world is a bit of a fairy-tale one, but it was lovely to escape into it for a few hours.
Completed : 21-Mar-2006 (audiobook, read by Kate Binchy)
Read it again in 2012 and enjoyed it just as much. Something I'd forgotten was how Laddie (who's a bit backward, but full of kindness) responds to being told by Signora that his Italian name would be "Lorenzo": "Do all Italian people named Laddie call themselves Lorenzo then?"
There are bad people in this book, but they all sow the seeds of their own misfortune: they come to bad ends but only as a result of their own action.
Completed : 02-Nov-2012 (audiobook, read by Kate Binchy)