Monday, February 16, 2015

Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy

circle of friends Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy
Released: 1990
First read: January 2013
Source: bought/trade paperback

Goodreads | Amazon

Big, generous-hearted Benny and the elfin Eve Malone have been best friends growing up in sleepy Knockglen. Their one thought is to get to Dublin, to university and to freedom...

On their first day at University College, Dublin, the inseparable pair are thrown together with fellow students Nan Mahon, beautiful but selfish, and handsome Jack Foley. But trouble is brewing for Benny and Eve's new circle of friends, and before long, they find passion, tragedy - and the independence they yearned for. (from Goodreads)

Maeve Binchy kills me every time with her amazing characters and their simple yet profound choices that form their stories.

We have big, soft, innocent, friendly Benny Hogan; and stubborn, loyal, tough-as-nails, yet humble Eve Malone. Their individual character arcs make up this story, and how their circle of friends heavily influences how they change themselves. Binchy stresses how these changes come from within.

Circle of Friends, as the title suggests, is about relationships of all kinds, how volatile and/or strong they can be, how they develop differently, how they can change for better or worse, how they can be rebuilt. How young people need to test loyalties to find truth, open themselves up when they are afraid and/or deeply hurt, and, most importantly, find themselves, their independence within this circle.

Benny and Eve were wonderful main characters for this because they are almost the antithesis of each other, their two common characteristics being their loyalty to each other and their humble Catholic, small town upbringings. Their humility changes the direction of many of these city slicker friends by the end, while the friends help them to come into their own, out of the sheltered life they led in Knockglen, to conqueror what plagued them individually as children.

I only have one problem with this book - the ending left you wanting for more. To clarify, the arcs of Benny and Eve were portrayed perfectly and the book ended where it was supposed to end. What I'm saying is that Binchy developed all of her characters so well - the secondary characters like Jack, Aidan, Nan, Clodagh, etc. - that a sequel is very much desired, that I could picture it all by myself. That part doesn't bother me. It's that I can't figure out whether Binchy didn't write a sequel because the rest could be imagined or she was trying to say that the story really did end there, that these characters remained how they were in the last couple of pages forever in terms of their relationships with each other. It's hard to tell because there are lines that Binchy put in there that suggest the latter, but the characters themselves suggest the former. And then I find myself re-reading the last few pages over and over trying to figure it out! It's maddening, but - who am I kidding - I love it.

Binchy is a gem in the literary world, I recommend her work to everyone.


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