An occasional series about falling in love with imaginary boys.
I am poorly this week, in the most snuffly-sinusy-streamy way possible. While I firmly believe that there is nothing in this world I cannot achieve through The Transformative Power Of Nasal Spray, I’m still feeling a bit sorry for myself.
So, as I always do when I need some comfort, I’ve returned to the place I love the best: rural Ireland in the 1950s.
Maeve Binchy’s Circle of Friends is the book equivalent of a bowl of Heinz Cream of Tomato soup. It’s warm and familiar and comforting; it’s maybe a bit over-sweet, but it’s still wholesome. If it was the only thing you had, you’d get bored of it quickly – but as an occasional easy fix, it’s a treat.
All the characters are so perfectly drawn. No matter how many times I read it, I never stop rooting for Benny, or coveting a fierce little friend like Eve, or being utterly outraged when Simon and Nan defile Benny’s cottage. I wish Clodagh could dress me for every major event in my life. I wish for a breakfast cooked by Kit Hegarty.
My crush, like so much in the book, is gentle. It’s not an all-consuming Gilbert Blythe love, nor an ill-advised Dave The Laugh lust. It’s a sweet and sincere and silly crush. It’s Aidan Lynch.
Unlike my other crushes, Aidan’s not our romantic lead. That role belongs to his dashing, wealthy, weak-willed cad of a best friend, Jack Foley. (In the film, I have learned, Benny and Jack reconcile at the end. This is completely wrong. He is unworthy of our Benny and her big heart and her lovely glossy ponytail. And what a shame to lose that beautiful final image, where Jack is no longer the sun, just another star in the sky. Boo to you, filmmakers).
He’s a scrappy little mongrel terrier: scruffy, endearing and persistent. He sets his sights on Eve early on, and then sticks by her side throughout all the improbable twists and turns of the novel. Her best efforts to keep him at arm’s length are futile: he’s chosen her, and that’s that. He’s cheeky; he’s charming; he’s twinkly; he’s kind. We like him very much.
I think maybe we like him so wholeheartedly because he loves Eve. We love Eve too, you see. We love the people who love the people we love, I think, so long as they love them fiercely and well. (Shoutout to Chris, who loves Emily, who we love).
As I write, I wonder whether the way I feel for Aidan is a crush at all – or whether, like my adoration of Circle of Friends, it’s just an appreciation of goodness and decency and Irish good humour.
Either way, Aidan Lynch is a man I’d want on my team no matter what game I was playing. He’s an excellent egg. He’s a keeper.