The Mountainview School in working-class Dublin boasts a brightly festooned room brimming with paper flowers and Renaissance posters. There, in an evening class, "An Introduction to Italian," come Aiden Dunne, the supervisor, Signora, the professoressa, and 30 or so students, whose hopes and dreams are bound up in the Tuesday and Thursday lessons.
Aiden Dunne has been passed over for headmaster of the school, and his family is falling apart. He desperately needs the evening class to be a success to restore his self-respect. Nora O'Donoghue, "Signora," followed the man she loved to Italy and waited 23 years for him, never faltering in her love. Signora, needy in a different way, will be the teacher, and together she and Aiden will conduct the class.
The students couldn't be more different. There is Bill Burke, a young bank clerk who goes to the classes hoping he might be considered for a job in international banking and that his spendthrift girlfriend, who has agreed to go to class with him, will have fewer opportunities to waste their money. Kathy Clark works too hard at school. She joins the Italian class for relaxation. There is Lou, whose wife Suzy Sullivan, has no idea why her husband is studying Italian; Laddy, the hotel porter, who's thought of by family and friends as slow and dim; and Connie, the society hostess who has an oddly empty calendar. For all of the students the thought of a trip to Italy when the course has been completed involves a different kind of drama. And by the time they are ready to set out on the journey, each one's life has changed utterly.
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