Circle of Friends was one of my late friend Laura Hivala’s favorite books. Laura was one of those friends that as a fellow reader always recommended books that I was sure to love. She recommended this book to me and told me it was a must read and I listened. I purchased the book and had it on my night stand ready to read. Then Laura passed away unexpectedly at the age of 32 and it has kept sitting there. I suppose I’m a bit afraid to let go of her recommendations and have only been reading them very slowly over the past four years since she passed away. I still have two books left. I picked Circle of Friends for my selection for our January meeting of the FLICKS Book and Movie Club to motivate myself to read it.
Benny Hogan grew up in a small village of Knockglen just outside of Dublin with her best friend Eve. Benny’s parents own Hogan’s Outfitters and her dad runs the shop. As the only child of older parents, Benny’s parents shelter her quite a bit. She is also a tall and shapely young woman, which her family and entire village is not too shy to remind her about. She is called “a great ox of a girl” among other things. When Benny and Eve graduate, they further their education in Dublin. Benny still lives at home and goes to classes during the day, much to her disappointment. She would like to be independent, but also doesn’t want to disappoint her parents. Due to a random accident when they start school, the two girls meet the beautiful Nan Mahon and the very handsome Jack Foley. Every girl in school wants Jack Foley, but everyone is surprised when Jack picks Benny with her unique personality. Things seem perfect, until many tragedies strike.
I LOVED this book and I can definitely see why Laura recommended it. The storyline engrossed me. Even though my paperback edition is roughly 600 pages long, I read it in only a few days. I loved Benny, but I also loved the many side characters in the story. The village of Knockglen and its inhabitants were wonderful. I cared about all of these characters and loved their stories. Maeve Binchy had a great talent for bringing these many characters to life, and making me care about all of their storylines. I also thought Benny’s story was empowering. I don’t want to spoil the book, but I really liked the ending. It is not a typical book ending, but it was a good ending for Benny. I loved how she became self-confident and took charge of her destiny. I saw the movie back in the 1990’s and enjoyed it, but the book was so much better!
Sadly as has become very common this past year, I was the only book club member who actually read the entire book. I discussed it and the ending anyway as at least a few people had seen the movie.
Overall, Circle of Friends was a wonderful book and I highly recommend it. When I read the end, I knew exactly why Laura had recommended it to me. I only wish I could discuss it with her. Every time I think about this book, I will remember her. She would have enjoyed that.
Book Source: I purchased this book a few years ago and it is a part of my personal collection.