Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchey
Whenever I’m asked for a “gentle read” my go-to author is Maeve Binchy. Her novels are standalone, not a series; so the order in which they are read doesn’t matter. There is no sex, language or violence in Binchy’s books. They are about the dramas of daily life: relationships with parents, children or spouses; your place in a community; identity and what you want to do with your life.
The characters in Binchy’s stories are very likeable. They are real people with flaws, who make mistakes and are easy to root for. The problems and issues they grapple with are believable, with a twist. Binchy is Irish and most of her books are set in Ireland. So while the subject matter is common to people everywhere, we are given a glimpse of life in another country. The background to the stories—both physical and cultural—is different from what we are used to in the United States.
One of the first of Binchy’s novels that I read, Circle of Friends, has also been made into a movie. The story revolves around three women starting at the University in Dublin: Benny, a single child of older parents; Eve, an orphan who was raised in a convent; and Nan, who has been raised to believe she deserves and can get a better life than the one she grew up in.
The Johnson County Library carries some 20 different works by Binchy, both full-length novels and short-story collections.