The third book from Dublin-born Adrienne Dines, 'Soft Voices Whispering' will appeal to anyone who can't wait until the next Maeve Binchy novel comes along. Set in small town Ireland of the 1930s and 1980s, it is peopled with familiar and well-drawn characters - benevolent nuns and penniless farmers, loud publicans and timid children, battered wives and hopeless drunkards.
'Soft Voices Whispering' opens with a funeral in 1980. The Mother Superior at Kildoran convent is dead. The local community gather to mourn her passing, and some nuns travel from England to pay their respects, among them the stern Sr Pius. The local children are dismayed when she stays on afterwards to teach them, but not as unhappy as Sr Pius herself to be back in a place which holds so many bad memories from her past, fifty years ago.
Alongside Sr Pius, on a parallel journey towards truth and reconciliation, is a younger woman called Emer, who is married to the bullying John Fagan. Their lives are inextricably linked and Dines gradually teases this out during the course of the tale.
Although some of the narrative coincidences are a little far-fetched, 'Soft Voices Whispering' is an absorbing and enjoyable read. For lovers of stories about life in Irish small towns, Adrienne Dines is an name to watch out for in the future.