The inside cover blurb summarizes the story as follows: "Seoul, 1978. At South Korea's top university, the nation's best and brightest compete to join the professional elite of an authoritarian regime. Success could lead to life of a rarified privilege and wealth; failure means being left irrevocably behind. For childhood friends, Jisun and Namin, the stakes couldn't be more different. Jisun, the daughter of a powerful business mogul, grew up on a mountainside estate with lush gardens and a dedicated chauffeur. Namin's parents run a tented food cart from dawn to curfew. Her sister works in a shoe factory. Now Jisun wants as little to do with her father's world as possible, abandoning her schoolwork in favor of the underground activist movement, while Namin studies tirelessly in the service of one goal: to launch herself and her family out of poverty. But everything changes when Jisun and Namin meet an ambitious, charming student named Sunam whose need to please his family has led him to a prestigious club: the Circle. Under the influence of his mentor, Juno, a manipulative social climber, Sunam becomes entangled with both women, as they all make choices that will change their lives forever."
The four student characters in this story were loveable and how they handled their friendships as they grew up forms the basis for the plot. The characters are the success of this novel. While they faced the usual ambition, desires, anxiety and betrayal that all young people deal with, they also are coming of age at a time when their nation is trying to become an economic powerhouse in a short period of time.
5 out of 5 stars!