"Circle of Friends" is to me what "The Baronetage" is to Sir Walter Elliot in "Persuasion". :)
"...there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were aroused into admiration and respect, ... there any unwelcome sensations ... changed into pity and contempt."
This book is about friendship, love, betrayal, growing up, learning to fight for what is important & learning to let go.
The story takes us to 1957 when Benny (Mary Bernadette) Hogan & Eve Malone are to leave (or are they?) the safe, but limited boundaries of their small Irish hometown of Knockglen -where everyone knows everyone- for the "big, dangerous" city of Dublin.
Benny, an awkward (because she is big and tall), but infinitely kind and funny girl is an only daughter to well-meaning, but elderly parents, who don't seem to realise that she is growing up into a woman. Although they are willing to pay for a university education (strictly Catholic, of course) for Benny, their own plan includes her returning to Knockglen afterwards & marrying her father's assistant (they have a struggling gentlemen's outfit shop), the unappealing, slimy & calculating Sean Walsh.
Eve is an orphan, brought up by the nuns of the Knockglen Catholic Convent (lead by the wonderful, practical Mother Francis), after her late mother's upper-class (Anglo-Irish) family rejects her because she married a low-class, Catholic handyman. She has no funds for university, unless she learns to overcome her pride & ask the Westwards to pay her tuition fee.
In Dublin they meet handsome, popular Jack Foley, cinnamon roll of the University & beautiful, cool Nan Mahon, who is playing a dangerous & ruthless game to get away from her aggressive, drunken father's house both geographically and socially & to land a rich and upper class husband.
The scene is also enriched by a set of very well drawn supporting characters both from the big city & the small town and you cannot help to laugh, cheer, curse or cry as the story unfolds.