There are wonderful strong women: Fran the thirty-two-year-old single working mother who risks losing the man she loves in order to support her daughter; Nora, the fifty-year-old emigrant returning to her native city broke and homeless who survives and becomes a catalyst for a whole crowd of young people to change their lives; and timid, anxious-to-please Fiona in her big spectacles, bravely trying to be confident and decisive. Lou — aka Luigi — struggling between the underworld and his own good nature. Lou recognised the voice. Nearly everyone in the book speaks with alarming frankness, characteristic of Dubliners. But however scathing the friends and neighbours are to each other they band together in a practical way for mutual benefits — which in this book are either to enjoy themselves or further a relationship; or maybe to conceal contraband, or just to learn enough Italian not to look foolish in Italy. Being Maeve, she throws in free instructions every now and then on how to lose any inhibition you may feel talking aloud in a foreign language for the first time.

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Aidan might find one in a newspaper at a weekend. Are You A Thoughtful Husband? They scored high on the answers to Are You Well Suited? But that was long ago. Who would want to acknowledge how very much less than this, and look up what kind of interpretation the questionnaire sages had applied to this admission? The page would be turned nowadays if either of them saw a survey asking Are You Compatible? And there had been no row, no falling out. Aidan had not been unfaithful to Nell, and he assumed that she had not strayed either.

Was it arrogant to assume this? She was an attractive looking woman; other men would definitely find her worth a second glance, as they always had.

Aidan knew that a great many men who were genuinely astounded when it was proved that their wives had been having affairs, were just smug and unobservant. But not him. He knew her so well he would know if this was the case. Anyway, where would she have met anyone? And if she had met someone she fancied where would they have gone? No, it was a ludicrous idea.

Possibly everyone else felt like this. Like having aches and pains in the backs of your legs after a long walk, like not being able to hear or understand the lyrics of pop songs any more. Maybe you just drifted apart from the person that you had thought was the centre of the world. It was quite likely that every other man of forty-eight going on forty-nine felt the same. All over the world there could be men who Canted their wives to be eager and excited about everything.

It had been so long now since Nell had asked about his job, and his hopes and dreams in the school. But now she hardly knew what was happening. When the new Minister for Education was appointed Nell just shrugged. Nell knew nothing of the Transition Year except to call it a bloody luxury.

Imagine giving children all that time to think and discuss and… find themselves… instead of getting down to their exams. He had become very dull explaining things. He could hear his own voice echoing in his ears; there was a kind of drone to it, and his daughters would raise their eyes to heaven wondering why at the ages of twenty-one and nineteen they should have to listen to any of this. He tried not to bore them.

Aidan knew it was a characteristic of teachers; they were so used to the captive audience in the classroom they could go on for far too long, approaching every subject from several sides until they were sure that the listener had grasped the drift. He made huge efforts to key into their lives. But Nell never had any stories or any issues to discuss about the restaurant where she worked as a cashier.

I sit there and I take their credit cards, or their cheque cards or their cash, and I give them change and a receipt. And then at the end of the day I come home and at the end of the week I get my wages. It was obvious that he himself must have been going on and on about confrontations and conflicts in the staff room.

And the days were gone - obviously long gone - when Nell was waiting eagerly to know what had happened, always rooting for him, championing his cause and declaring that his enemies were her enemies. Aidan ached for the companionship, the solidarity and the teamwork of other times. Perhaps when he became Principal it would return. Or was this fooling himself? Possibly the headship would still hold little interest for his wife and two daughters.

His home just ticked along easily. Recently he had felt this odd feeling that he had died some time ago, and they were all managing perfectly well. Nell went to and from the restaurant. Her mother liked to see them all regularly to know were they all right.

He would never forget the look Nell had given him. She had begun to say something but then changed her mind. Her face was full of distant pity.

She looked at him as she might have looked at a poor tramp sitting on the street, his coat tied with a rope and drinking the dregs of a ginger wine bottle. He fared no better with his daughters. Grania worked in the bank but had little to report from it, to her father at any rate.

Sometimes he came across her talking to her friends, and she seemed much more animated. And it was the same with Brigid. The travel agency is fine, Dad, stop going on about it. That was it. Dead simple. When had all this happened… this growing apart? There was a time when the girls had sat all clean and shiny after their bath time in pink dressing gowns while he told them stories and Nell would look on pleased from across the room.

But that was years back. There had been good times since then. When they were doing their exams, for example, Aidan remembered doing out revision sheets for them, planning how they should study to the best advantage. They had been grateful then. He remembered the celebrations when Grania got her Leaving Certificate and later when she was accepted in the bank.

There had been a lunch on each occasion in a big hotel, the waiter had taken photographs of them all. And it had been the same with Brigid, a lunch and a picture session. They looked a perfectly happy family in those pictures. Was it all a facade? Мы отобрали схожую по названию и смыслу литературу в надежде предоставить читателям больше вариантов отыскать новые, интересные, ещё не прочитанные произведения.

Maeve Binchy.


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Evening Class : A heartwarming novel of friendship and support


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