When “Circle of Friends” hit bookstores, The New York Times book review praised Maeve Binchy’s special talent for telling women’s stories. The novel follows Bernadette (Benny) Hogan, a full-chested, geeky but lovable 18-year-old girl whose middle-class life as the haberdasher’s daughter has been quite comfortable. Her childhood best friend Eve Malone — “the smartest” — comes from quite different roots; orphaned, she was raised by nuns in the local covenant. The stereotypical pretty girl in their circle is Nan Mahon who yearns to transcend her humble roots and become (vis-à-vis marriage) the aristocrat she believes herself to be.
In a twist on a tired trope, it’s the sweet, funny, and admittedly sexy Benny who wins the affection of the cutest boy in school, Jack Foley (via The New York Times). Together, the friends must navigate growing pains, heartache and tragedy, to finally discover their true selves. Binchy once noticed, “there are no makeovers in my books. The ugly duckling does not become a beautiful swan. She becomes a confident duck who can take charge of her own life and her own problems.” “Circle of Friends” subversively asks these young women to decide if life is really about love and marriage. Friendship is perhaps the most important relationship of all, because the Los Angeles Times Noted.