I love Maeve Binchy!! Love her! But I am sad to say I do not love Circle of Friends. I do not love the first 370 pages of this book that I painstakingly read for 2 weeks!! I consider myself a fast reader and this 570 page novel is something I usually fly through, but this just took too long. As a fan of her books, I figured I’d love this one as well but sadly I did not and I will now, put my foot in my mouth after disagreeing with Kelly’s review of Tara Road and her statements saying it took too long to get into the story.
This novel is about a ‘circle of friends’ in 1950s Dublin, all from different backgrounds. The books primary characters are Benny (short for Bernadette…from what I remember, it was so long ago) and her friend Eve, both girls that grew up in the outskirts of Dublin. The girls attend UCD (University College Dublin for you non-Irish) in first year, and form bonds with the other characters in the book. In this group, there are all the stereotypes, the handsome jock from the upper class family (Jack), the gorgeous blond who hides who she really is (Nan), the outcast (Eve), the ‘larger girl’ (Benny), the guy everyone likes (Aidan), etc. The relationship of Benny and Jack is an unlikely one yet his love for her seems true throughout the book. But obviously something will rattle this circle there is something that will undoubtedly pull someone from the inner circle to the outer circle and perhaps out of the circle forever. When I finally got the last 200 pages of this book (the good part), I knew immediately how Binchy would make this happen and it made me mad.
It made me mad, that I had spent the past 2 weeks reading this book and the ending was going to be so anti-climatic and predictable. Could the uncertainty I had for Benny and Jack be true? I couldn’t possibly believe that Benny, a girl a little bigger than average, would actually end up with the Donnybrook Jock that all the girls pined after?? Could their relationship be torn apart by someone slimmer, more attractive, and much more desired, a gorgeous blond perhaps? The answers to these questions maybe be obvious yet there are twists leading you to them. Predictable twists.
Now do not get me wrong, I did enjoy this book, eventually. As I lived in Dublin for a year and a half, I loved how I could picture where the characters are when they talked about the quays, or Saint Steven’s Green, or Dun Laoghaire, or Donnybrook! The characters’ dialect made me feel like I was right back there. But all that aside, I feel she spent too much time building up the stories of the characters lives and then rush to the ending. The climax is nearly in the last 70 pages of the book (at least for me it seemed that way) and then just kind of ends, leaving you wanting more. But I guess that raises the question, is the sign of a good author an ending where they leave you wanting more even though you couldn’t stand the first 350 pages of a book?? Or a book where you loved the first 350 pages and the ending just left you feeling, unfulfilled? I’m going to have to watch this movie now and see if it leaves me with the same feeling, which I pray it won’t. And hopefully Binchy’s next book will leave me feeling a little more full and help me remove the foot out of my mouth.
Next book: Friends Like These by Danny Wallace