Benny Hogan and Eve Malone are childhood friends from the town of Knockglen. Benny is the only daughter of Mr and Mrs Hogan, who own the local menswear shop. Eve is an orphan who was raised by the nuns in the convent. Her mother was a member of the upper-class Anglo-Irish Westward family, who disowned her when she married a working-class man.
When they are 18, Benny goes to college in UCD, while Eve goes to live in another convent in Dublin. On the first day of college, the two friends meet up. An accident occurs between a car and a motorbike. The student who was riding the motorbike is killed, and Eve is knocked unconscious. At the hospital, Benny meets Nan Mahon, another student who witnessed the accident. Nan is the beautiful daughter of a working-class builder in Dublin, but she has plans to marry above her class. They also meet Jack Foley, a handsome student whose father was driving the car in the accident.
Eve recovers from her injuries. She visits her estranged cousin, Simon Westward, to ask for money to pay for her college fees, and Simon agrees. Eve forms a friendship with Kit Hegarty, the widowed mother of the student killed in the accident, who runs a boarding house in Dun Laoghaire. Kit takes Eve on as an assistant in the house in exchange for accommodation.
Benny's parents are eager for her to marry Sean Walsh, an odious young man who works for Mr Hogan. Benny rejects Sean's advances, as she doesn't want to marry him. She has her sights set on Jack Foley, even though she doesn't believe she is attractive enough for him to take any interest.
Jack visits Knockglen with his father and meets up with Benny, who shows him the town. The two get on very well, and Jack later invites Benny out for lunch. Benny begins starving herself in anticipation of their date.
Benny meets Jack for lunch, but is disappointed to discover that he has invited a whole group of friends. However, she quickly recovers, and becomes the centre of attention,...
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