Aidan Dunne hoped he would be appointed as Principal of Mountainview school, Dublin. He had worked there long enough, he was an excellent teacher and the students loved him.
But Aidan did not get the job. It went to Tony O'Brien, the rather nefarious man who was seen in bars with younger women, and smoked in front of the students. ‘He’s the man for the times. He is what the school needs,’ the Board felt. The outgoing Principal, who was batting for Aidan, had a vote, but it didn’t count.
So Aidan , whose family life was also falling to pieces, did what he loved best. He mooted the idea of starting evening classes, to the new Principal. Aidan would teach Italian. The ensuing classes brought him 30 students, a love interest, and a class trip to Rome. Next stop Sicily.
We are often placed in circumstances over which we have no control. Our perceptions of ourselves are not shared by others and what seems to be obvious is not always so. Few of us have the courage to make the situation work for us. Like Aidan did.
Evening classes inducted into Aidan’s life a new energy, a new meaning , a new reason to live. The old meanings had all been shorn away. Life had to reinvent itself for him – and it did. Because he had the courage to give it a try. To trust his instincts.
Listening to the 3 CDs of Evening Class over the weekend, took me back to the time when I was learning Portuguese at the Instituto Camoes, New Delhi. We found bonding in a new language, a new culture, a new dream. Yes, we were a motley crew, mostly adults, but syntax drew us together. Grades really didn’t matter, at least for some of us. We were there to grow in a new world.
In the later pages, Tom reaps one tempest in love after another, while Aidan cruises to finding fulfilment in Signora – his teacher of Italian. Aidan suavely – that’s perhaps not the right word – assesses his strengths – and builds on them. He desists from comparing himself unfavourably with Tony. He lets it go. Life is too short for recrimination. When his daughter - the beauteous Grania - offers her hand to Tony, it does not even merit a scene. Aidan is at peace within himself.
Aidan moved us more than Terese in Zola’s Terese Raquin, or Adam in Steinbeck’s East of Eden – both of which we listened to on CDs. Aidan is an ordinary man with an extraordinary zest for life.
True, the versions are abridged, but I can’t see how we would get down to doing it otherwise. In this lifetime.
Evening Class by Maeve Binchy, Level 4, Retold by Evadne Adrian-Vallance, Penguin Readers, Pearson Education Limited, Harlow, 2008. ISBN 978-1-4058-8215-6; Picture source: Dublin; brightshiny(dot) com