The View From Knockglen

Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy

My first post of 2010 might be a quickie (it’s late!) but it’s certainly about a great read.  Maeve Binchy’s novel about a–yes–circle of friends in Ireland is a true page turner.  The novel focuses around a group of pals splitting time between Knockglen, a small rural town outside of Dublin and the metropolis itself.  Complex family backgrounds and love stories are woven together perfectly to create a biopic of life as it certainly was in this setting in the late 1950s.

Benny Hogan, Eve Malone, Nan Mahon and Jack Foley are the group’s core.  The plot focuses primarily around frumpy Benny’s unlikely romance with handsome and charming Jack Foley and the subsequent complications caused by beautiful Nan Mahon.  Nan is a complex character in her own right, reared by a diminutive mother showering her with fantasies of a life beyond what her poor, drunk father has provided.  What results is what I believe great fiction should provide: a glimpse of Truth via an engrossing story.  Benny Hogan learns a great lesson on Love.  Love is not subject to whims of lust, but thoughtfulness and respect.  Nan Mahon demonstrates the futility of escapism.  In all, this was an excellent read by an understandably popular writer.

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