Circle of Friends (novel)
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Followed by||The Copper Beech|
Circle of Friends is a novel written in 1990 by Maeve Binchy. It is set in Dublin, as well as the fictitious town of Knockglen in rural Ireland during the 1950s. The story centres on a group of university students.
As with her previous novels, Binchy writes about a large cast of characters:
- Bernadette 'Benny' Hogan - a sensitive, kind-hearted country girl from Knockglen. Benny worries being overweight will hold her back, and cannot believe her luck when handsome Jack Foley falls for her.
- Eve Malone - an orphan raised in the convent her father worked in after her late mother's aristocratic, Anglo-Irish family, the Westwards. Eve is fiercely loyal to those she loves, and has a fiery temper which proves her undoing at times.
- Nan Mahon - a beautiful, ambitious girl from a working-class Dublin family who seeks to marry into wealth, and sees Eve's connections as the perfect opportunity.
- Jack Foley - a handsome, popular doctor's son who falls in love with Benny.
- Aidan Lynch - a likeable young man with a sense of humour who fancies Eve.
- Simon Westward - Eve's first cousin and a member of the Protestant Anglo-Irish ascendancy class. He has a brief romance with Nan, but does not see her as wife material.
- Heather Westward - Simon's younger sister, who becomes attached to Eve, and vice versa, leading to something of a thawing in relations between Eve and the Westwards.
- Sean Walsh - Eddie's Hogan's efficient, obsequious and somewhat unpleasant assistant. He assumes he will marry into the family business, but Benny's romance with Jack forces him to make other plans.
- Mother Francis - the head of St. Mary's convent, who brings up Eve Malone like a daughter.
- Kit Hegarty - mother of Frank Hegarty, whose death in a motorcycle accident on his first day at the university brings Jack and Nan into Benny and Eve's lives. She gives Eve a job and accommodation in her student digs, enabling her to pay her way through university.
- Eddie and Annabel Hogan - Benny's loving but over-protective parents.
- Rosemary Ryan - A pretty, popular girl with her eye on Jack. She is stunned to lose out to Benny, but later develops a friendship with her.
- Clodagh Pine - The niece of local dressmaker Peggy; a lively, ambitious girl who befriends Benny and Eve and helps bring Benny out of her shell.
- Alphonsus ('Fonsie') - The half-Italian nephew of chip shop owner Mario; a popular young man who shares Clodagh's ambition and zest for life.
- Patsy - The Hogan's maid who, like Eve, was orphaned as a child.
In the (fictional) small Irish town of Knockglen in 1950, an unlikely friendship blossoms between ten year-old Bernadette 'Benny' Hogan - an overweight, big-hearted only child - and wiry orphan Eve, being raised by nuns in a convent after her disgraced late mother's upper-class family rejects her. The friendship endures into their teens, when Eve's inability to pay for university means their lives will take different paths, with Eve working as a servant in a Dublin convent to pay her way through secretarial school. On their first day in Dublin, an accident brings the two girls together with students Nan Mahon and Jack Foley, and friendships are quickly forged. Eve is able to attend university after all when her cousin, Simon Westward, agrees to pay her tuition, and Benny surprises everyone by winning the heart of the handsome Jack. But things turn sour when Nan attempts to use Eve's family connections to her own advantage. When her plan to snare Simon goes drastically wrong, Nan is forced into a new plan - one which will break Benny's heart.
A key subplot is the future of the Hogan family business, Hogan's Gentlemen's Outfitters; thrown into turmoil when Benny's father dies. Having been forced to abandon his plan to marry into the business, the efficient but unpleasant Sean Walsh demands a partnership, but Eddie Hogan dies before the deed is signed. Benny reluctantly plans to honour the agreement; however, when she looks more closely at the business accounts, it reveals Sean may not be the model employee he seems.