Friday, June 7, 2013

Circle of Friends

1990, 1991 Dell edition
Maeve Binchy
Circle of Friends
Original price $6.50, purchase price $3.25
Very worn paperback with split spine

I really enjoyed the 1995 film version (Minnie Driver's debut), but I haven't seen it since, so I don't know if it would bother me as much as this book now does.  My dislike ranges from an anachronism worse than the 1957 Twist in Echoes to the central romance.  The former is a 1957 letter that says in part, "She has read aloud to me your letters about being groovy and inviting me to where the action is.  She has begun to ask me what 'turning someone on' is about, and why do people say 'It's been real.'"  (What happened to Binchy in 1957?  Some time-travel mishap?) 

As for the romance, Benny (short for Bernadette) is very insecure and can't believe that someone as handsome, charming, and popular as Jack would want her for his girlfriend.  The tag on this edition says, "For everyone who ever thought the person they loved was out of their reach."  Translation, "You folks are damn lucky if it's true, because that unattainable guy would try to pressure you into sex and then cheat on you with one of your friends, who's secretly pregnant by another guy, who won't marry her.  But it could be worse, since your best friend would threaten her with a knife and cause her to have a miscarriage, so your ex won't marry her and will then want you back, but you'd have moved on by then."  Not to mention that Jack offers Benny almost zero support when her father dies and she suspects (correctly) that the family store's "loyal" employee is embezzling.  All Jack does is whinge about how she doesn't spend more time in town.  (They're students in Dublin, and she commutes almost daily to and from the small town of Knockglen.)

So what did I like?  I liked the friendship between Benny and Eve (the knife-wielder).  I liked Eve's story much more than Benny's, including her prickly relationship with her late mother's family.  As always, I liked Binchy's view of small-town life.  (Dublin is just sketched in, and I didn't really get a sense of student life, beyond scarves and fly-cemeteries [a type of pastry].)  There were things here and there I liked.  And I have to admit that I like that Binchy resisted the temptation that the film-makers gave into, of giving Jack and Benny a "happy" ending.  (And, no, nobody makes a Jack Benny joke, which would at least be more timely than a teddy-boy writing letters like a hippie.)

Next up on the Binchy list, 1992's The Copper Beech....

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