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Binchy brings together eight Dubliners for some lessons in Italian-and in life.
A banker with a spendthrift girlfriend; a studious teenager with an overprotective older sister; a thug looking to go straight while needing a place to stash illegal goods‘the lives of these and many other Dubliners are touched by Signora, née Nora O'Donoghue, whose adult education class, "Introduction to Italian," becomes a lesson in what it means to be alive, in Binchy's richly satisfying new novel. After being passed over for the principal's job he desperately wants, underappreciated teacher Aidan Dunne is offered, as a pacifier, the job of spearheading a program of adult education classes. He recruits Nora, whose repatriation to Ireland is precipitated by the death of her longtime married Sicilian lover, to teach Italian language and culture. The stage is thus set for La Signora to work her magic, drawing out the secrets and the romance in her students' lives. Readers uninitiated into the quotidian charms of Binchy's popular world (The Glass Lake) may find it offputting that Signora, who by many standards has masochistically mismanaged her own affairs, should prove a beacon to others. But those in the know will recognize the trademark Binchy willingness to let people be as they are, unjudged. Also familiar will be the leisurely unfolding of the story, as well as themes concerning the inevitable clash of traditional and contemporary mores, and the gap between familial duty and having a life. You didn't love people to change them," one character observes here. Fans of Binchy's nimble storytelling skills, and of her characters, who are always decent without being dull, won't want to change a thing. Major ad/promo; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selections; first serial to Good Housekeeping; TV satellite tour. (Mar.)
YA‘Aidan Dunne, a middle-aged Latin teacher, has lost out on his bid to become headmaster of his Dublin school. Lonely and estranged from his family, he dreams of returning to Italy, where he had spent several holidays as a young man. Aidan is given the opportunity to start a program of evening classes at the school, and to his delight, Signora appears and offers herself as a teacher of Italian language and culture. Signora is a native Dubliner who followed her Italian lover to Sicily 20 years earlier, knowing he would not marry her, but living for the times he could slip away from his wife and family. His sudden death has brought her home. Her enthusiasm and energy attract students of all ages to her class, and the novel is their story, as well as hers and Aidan Dunne's. Relationships between the young students and their parents, and the relationships that develop among the students in the class are vividly portrayed. The climax of the book, a class trip to Italy, involves a threat of murder, a chance for Signora to return to Sicily, and the opportunity for several of the students to demonstrate their resourcefulness as well as their language skills. As with Circle of Friends, Binchy brings a diverse group of characters together and draws readers into their lives. YAs will identify with these people and their struggles to find independence, love, and self-respect.‘Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA