'Warm, witty and with a deep understanding of what makes us tick, it's little wonder that Maeve Binchy's bewitching stories have become world-beaters' OK Magazine
The Italian evening class at Mountainview School is like hundreds of others starting up all over the city. But this class has its own special quality - as the focus for the varied hopes and dreams of teacher and pupils alike.
Aidan Dunne needs his new evening class project to succeed almost as much as his pupils do. They too are looking for something more: Bill to find a way to keep spendthrift Lizzie at his side, and Fran to make sure that young Kathy finds her way out from behind the kitchen sink.
The key to their success lies with the Signora. Her passion has drawn her from Ireland to Italy and back home again with a burning desire to share her love of all things Italian - and a secret hidden in her heart...
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, nee 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.