"Isn't it super to have it to ourselves?" Jack said at that moment. "I feel like a sultan, or some millionaire. They do - you know - ring up restaurants and say they want to book all the tables so that they won't be disturbed."
"They do?" Benny asked eagerly. At least it was conversation and he seemed to be making the best of the place being empty.
"Well, I did it today, of course! Carlo, we need the whole place to ourselves... a pianist possibly. No? Well, all right. Just a few violinists at the table later. Just don't let any hoi polloi in, no awful Dubliners having their lunch or anything sordid like that."
They laughed and laughed just like last night...
"I must remember every detail of this place to tell Mario about it," Benny said, looking happily around.
"You're lovely, Benny," Jack said.
Maeve Binchy, Circle of Friends
1, 5, 6 - La Garconne // 2 - Freunde von Freunden // 3 - Mymu Espadrilles from My Chameleon, Maison.Balzac L'eglise candle, Isabel Marant sweater from The Corner Shop, Aesop Resurrection hand balm. // 4 - Kinfolk Volume 2, Rachel I need to give this back to you!!! // 5 - Ambitious holiday reading lists
This scene is probably my favourite in the whole of Circle of Friends. It's right after the 'big' dance, the kind of scene with lots of drama and action and romance and generally considered to be a turning point in the novel. But I like this one better. I think that - in Circle of Friends as in life - what happens after the turning point is what counts. Alone in an Italian restaurant in the docks of Dublin, Jack Foley, the blue-eyed boy captain of the Rugby team and Benny, hopeless, hopeful Benny, have their first lunch together. At the party Benny got all dolled up in a dress that exploited her ample cleavage because she was desperately in love with Jack and she wanted him to smile at her. The next day, without a party dress to wear, she grabs a green sweater from the cupboard of her friend's room-mate and ties her hair back into a big bunch. She's not wearing anything special, not dolled up in the slightest, but Jack's eyes lights up when he sees her. She's just lovely. I've always loved the character of Big Benny Hogan. She's a small-town girl navigating university and friendship and family and Dublin in the late 1950s, and this novel is one of those coming-of-age tales that simply do not age. The good ones - Bonjour Tristesse, Looking for Alibrandi - will resonate with you even when you have come of age, even when you are much too old to be worrying about first kisses, first loves, first broken hearts.
As soon as I saw the new La Garconne editorial I thought of this scene. I thought of Benny smiling over candlelight in her sweater and jeans and espadrilles and I knew that I had found my new uniform. I'm not the only one who has fallen in love - Dee and me must be on the same page. How do they always, always, always get that styling so right? I dug out my Mymu espadrilles, a Mediterranean summer distilled into a shoe, shrugged on an oatmeal sweater and turned the cuffs up on my jeans. I'm not going anywhere - still home sick - but I felt nice rugged up and cosy in my room. I've been using my Aesop handcream all through winter to counteract cold hands and dry skin, and I love the smell. We have rosemary leaf in our garden and there always seems to be mandarins and cumquats around, and so it reminds me of my place. When the weather loses some of this icy chill running through it at the moment I'm going to spread out in the garden with one of my (many) new books and read for a little bit. Holidays are almost over, and I don't want to go back to uni. It's my last semester and I'm not quite sure that I'm ready to let go. Not yet.