The Copper Beech / Evening Class Author:Maeve Binchy Binchy (Circle of Friends; The Lilac Bus) is a consummate storyteller with a unique ability to draw readers into her tales of Irish life. In this book, she has combined two great novels. — The Copper Beech... Here again she mines sources rich in plot and character to produce a captivating narrative. The eponymous copper beech is a huge t... more »ree that shades the tiny schoolhouse in the village of Shancarrig. For generations, graduating pupils have carved their initials on the massive trunk, and the book examines what has become of some of them. Though each of the 10 chapters offers the perspective of a single character, Binchy adroitly indicates the ways in which their lives intersect. Thus, the allegedly stolen jewels that are discovered and stolen again in one early chapter become significant in later chapters. Long after two adulterous characters sneak into a Dublin hotel, it emerges that they were spotted by a small soul from Shancarrig, who passes on the information--with unforeseen consequences. A priest's dalliance with the sweet young schoolteacher is shown to have been been suspected by others in the village. The result is a charming and compelling series of interlocking stories about ordinary people who are given dimension through Binchy's empathetic insight. While this book is more fragmentary in structure than some of her previous novels, it should leave Binchy's fans wholly satisfied.
Evening Class... 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.« less