Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Friday Nights

Friday Nights

3.0 27
by Joanna Trollope

See All Formats & Editions

Joanna Trollope's warm, insightful novel stars Eleanor, who invites two young mothers into her home from off the street, and slowly begins to connect with them and their friends. But when one of them meets a man, new questions are posed: can female friendships withstand the jealousies and intricacies of love?

With wit and warmth Joanna Trollope opens a window


Joanna Trollope's warm, insightful novel stars Eleanor, who invites two young mothers into her home from off the street, and slowly begins to connect with them and their friends. But when one of them meets a man, new questions are posed: can female friendships withstand the jealousies and intricacies of love?

With wit and warmth Joanna Trollope opens a window onto six very different women's lives, their passions and their sorrows, and explores with insight and humanity the shifting currents of friendship.

Editorial Reviews

Carolyn See
Don't be too quick to dismiss this skillfully crafted novel as mere "women's fiction." Men tend to scorn this stuff—to be seen reading it in public would be like wearing pantyhose to work. But men could learn a lot from some earnest perusal of books like these—about their own intrinsic power and, more vulgarly perhaps, their ability to score—because, despite their sincere protestations, women need men like lungs need air.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

When a British retiree invites two young single mothers from the neighborhood to her flat, a Friday night tradition begins. As their klatch widens, Trollope's memorable characters do more than just represent varying female predicaments: they develop as rich individuals who come to triumph over their pasts. Paula has a wary relationship with the married man who fathered their son, Toby: she must move on, yet stay in touch for Toby's sake. Struggling Lindsay was widowed before she gave birth, while her sister, Jules, is a careless aspiring nightclub DJ with a wild streak. Independent, put-together Blaise contrasts starkly with her often bedraggled business partner, Karen, who barely manages her role as mother and breadwinner. And then there is Eleanor, the catalyst for the gatherings, a no-nonsense older woman who, though full of wisdom and spunk, keeps her thoughts to herself unless asked. When a new man enters Paula's life, Trollope (Second Honeymoon) masterfully shows how work and romance can tip the scales in female friendships. The result is a careful and compelling examination of one man's insidious effect on a group of female friends, as memorable as it is readable. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Trollope (The Rector's Wife) excels at character development and realistic dialog, two talents displayed in this novel of various women drawn together-though not over a book club or knitting group, as in many other works. Retiree Eleanor often sees Paula and Lindsay, two harried young mothers, passing on the street and decides they should have time to relax. Paula and Lindsay, who have never met each other before, turn down Eleanor's offer of babysitting but are flustered enough to accept her invitation to visit her one Friday evening. The group soon expands to include Blaise, Eleanor's neighbor; Karen, Blaise's coworker; and Jules, Lindsay's younger sister. Trollope outlines each woman's history, deftly interweaving their individual stories with those of the new connections growing among them. When Paula begins dating Jackson Miller, the equilibrium of the group is altered, and as Jackson becomes a part of all of their lives, events occur that will change the group forever. Trollope's novel rings true, portraying the complexities of contemporary women's lives without sentimentality or melodrama. Recommended.
—Beth Lindsay

Kirkus Reviews
Trollope (Second Honeymoon, 2006, etc.) freshens up a tired chick-lit device, the woman's group, in this story about a group that falls apart when one of the members falls in love. Eleanor, a retired professional who never married, began the Friday night get-togethers years earlier when she noticed two young single mothers who separately looked lonely and invited them in to her home to meet each other. The father of Paula's son Toby never left his wife and family but pays Paula child support and occasionally visits Toby, now eight. Lindsay's husband died before six-year-old Noah was born. Lindsay's waiflike younger sister Jules, an aspiring DJ, begins to show up. So does Eleanor's neighbor Blaise, a business consultant who like Eleanor has chosen work over family. Blaise introduces her business partner Karen, married and struggling to balance her domestic responsibilities with her professional ambitions. The friends find comfort and support in the Friday nights spent talking and drinking wine. Then one Friday Paula arrives with her new beau Jackson, both to show him off and get her friends' approval. A pucklike figure, the charming if emotionally elusive Jackson insinuates himself into the group, triggering a mix of reactions. Lindsay resents that Paula ignores their previously close friendship for a man. Jules believes Jackson is going to give her a career. Her marriage foundering, Karen is sexually drawn to Jackson and mistakenly thinks he is interested in her. Both Blaise and Eleanor, women without other emotional ties, suffer the loss of the community they depend on. And Paula is too gaga over Jackson to pay attention to anyone else, including needy Toby. There are no villains orheroines here, just women-and men-trying to make sense of the limits that their choices and personalities have imposed on their lives. By the time Jackson slips away, or is pushed away by Paula, the characters have realigned, wiser and mostly happier. Insightful and reassuring if a little contrived.
From the Publisher

“Don't be too quick to dismiss this skillfully crafted novel as mere 'women's fiction'...men could learn a lot from some earnest perusal of books like these.” —Washington Post

“Another piece of intelligent domestic fiction from the reliable Trollope, who makes us care about all of these women and the choices they make.” —Booklist

“Insightful and reassuring.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Trollope's memorable characters do more than just represent varying female predicaments: they develop as rich individuals who come to triumph over their pasts...Trollope masterfully shows how work and romance can tip the scales in female friendships. The result is a careful and compelling examination of one man's insidious effect on a group of female friends, as memorable as it is readable.” —Publishers Weekly

Product Details

Center Point
Publication date:
Center Point Premier Fiction (Large Print) Series
Edition description:
Large Print Edition
Product dimensions:
5.82(w) x 8.47(h) x 1.31(d)

Read an Excerpt

Friday Nights A Novel
BLOOMSBURY USA Copyright © 2008 Joanna Trollope
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59691-407-0

Chapter One Toby's mother said that when Eleanor came he'd have to go down to the ground floor and help her with the lift.

Toby said-sulkily, because he was angry with her for something he couldn't quite put his finger on-"She doesn't need help."

His mother was standing in front of the mirror she had propped on top of a chest in her bedroom. She was arranging her hair in a complicated kind of knot, and she had a hair clip between her teeth.

Through it she said without looking at him, "Toby, this isn't about need. It's about manners."

Toby kicked one foot clumsily against the other. Then he went out of his mother's bedroom and banged the door shut and leaned against it. This door, his mother's bedroom door, was one of only a few doors in the flat. There was just that door, and the front door and the door on the bathroom. The rest was just space. Upward, outward, sideways. Just space.

"I live in a loft," Toby said to someone when he'd started his new school.

Several boys had stared at him, elaborately uninterested.

"Whatever," they'd said.

"I do," Toby had said to himself silently all that day. "I do." And then, "My father bought it."

He had. Toby's father had bought the loft two years ago, and had given it to Paula and Toby.

"Conscience money," Paula's friend Lindsay said.

Paula hadn't replied. She put the photograph of Toby's father on the black rattan chest between two of the huge high windows. It was a photograph taken on a boat, and Toby's father was sitting on the roof of the cabin, and he was smiling. His feet were bare. The photograph did not, however, include Toby's father's wife and children who were, Toby knew, the reason why he and his mother lived in the loft on their own.

"At least," Paula said sometimes to Toby, when she got very loving and then very angry, "at least you know who your father is."

What she meant by that Toby hadn't the faintest idea. And he certainly wasn't asking. Occasionally, if he was alone in the flat while Paula went to buy a newspaper, or to collect the dry cleaning, he would pick up his father's photograph and lay it facedown on the black rattan chest.

"You just stay there, Gavin," he'd say. "You just do as you're told."

He sighed now. He wanted to be back in his mother's bedroom, but he had made that impossible. He sighed again. The loft looked enormous in the gathering gloom, as if the walls and ceiling were quietly dissolving into the darkness, just melting away so that the night could pour in. Paula had lit her lamps, the lamps that threw light up into the dusky spaces, the lamps that let light fall onto her orange cushions and the rug striped like a zebra. She had put glasses on the low table between the sofas because people were coming, glasses and bowls of varnished Japanese rice crackers. People were coming. Eleanor was coming.

Toby pushed himself away from the door and stood up. He liked Eleanor. She walked unevenly with the help of a stick, and her hair was a white fuzz, and she talked to him as if he might have an opinion worth hearing. He also liked how his mother was with Eleanor, how she was calm and able to think about things that weren't automatically going to upset her. Eleanor once said to Toby that the older she got the more she preferred the universal to the individual and personal. Toby had wondered if she was talking about galaxies.

He went slowly across the living space, avoiding, as usual, actually treading on the zebra rug. On the far side, a metal staircase resembling a ladder with perforated treads rose up in the dimness to the platform where Toby's bed was, and his computer, and the toy theater for which he collected puppets. He climbed the ladder slowly, a deliberate tread at a time, until he was out of the glow of the lamps and into the privacy of darkness. Then he sat down on the top step of the ladder and leaned forward, until his chin was on his knees, and he sighed again. Friday nights.

It was Eleanor who had started these Friday nights some years back, after observing from the bay window of her front room two young women endlessly trailing up and down that low-built street in Fulham. One had a baby and one had a small boy. They were never together, and they were never, as far as Eleanor could see, accompanied by a man.

Eleanor had seldom been accompanied by a man herself, but then she had never had a baby or a small boy either. Watching the young women, she had seen what she had so often seen during her long working years as an administrator in the National Health Service-manifestations of those brave coping mechanisms devised by people concerned not to be pitied for being alone. Being alone, Eleanor knew, was not in itself undesirable: it was the circumstances of aloneness that made it either a friend or a foe. And being alone with a small dependent child, and thus in a situation considered by the conventional world to be ideally a matter of partnership, was not a situation for the fainthearted. Sometimes, Eleanor thought, watching them over the top of her reading glasses, the set of those young women's shoulders indicated that their hearts, for all the outward show of managing, were very faint indeed.

One day, seeing them both approaching from opposite ends of the street, she had limped out on her stick into a sharp spring wind and offered to babysit. Both had been extremely startled, and both had demurred. The girl with the baby said she couldn't leave him. The young woman with the small boy said she had no money. Eleanor said she didn't want money. The young woman said, somewhat desperately, that she couldn't handle obligation.

Eleanor leaned on her stick. She took off her reading glasses and let them hang round her neck on the scarlet cord she had attached in the hope of not losing them.

"Then do me a favor," Eleanor said.

The girls waited, sniffing the wind.

"Let me be the obliged one," Eleanor said. "Come and see me. Bring the children. Come on Friday night."

They came, mute with awkwardness. The baby slept in his pram. Toby, aged almost three, squirmed on the sofa under a crocheted blanket and threaded his fingers endlessly in and out of the holes. Eleanor opened a bottle of Chianti, and poured out large glasses. She learned, with patience and difficulty, that Paula, Toby's mother, could not, for some reason, live with Toby's father. She learned that Lindsay, mother of baby Noah, had been widowed when her husband, a construction worker, had been crushed by a cement slab.

"It was a year and three months ago," Lindsay said. She looked across at the pram. "I didn't even know I was pregnant."

"Nobody should be required to bear that," Eleanor said.

Lindsay said quickly, still looking at the pram, "I'm not bearing it."

They did not, either of them, seem to know how to arrange themselves, nor when to leave. At ten o'clock, Eleanor got stiffly to her feet and said that she was afraid it was her bedtime. They went out together, with the pram and the stroller, hardly looking at her as they said good-bye. Eleanor, beginning on the nightly ritual of closing and locking and bolting, thought how often it was the case that a small good intention was snatched out of one's hands by human conduct and inflated into something much larger and much less manageable. She regarded herself dispassionately in the looking glass set into the art deco coat stand in her hall.

"Persevere," Eleanor told herself. "Keep going."

Three Fridays later, they came again. Eleanor had seen Lindsay in the newsagent's on the corner of the street, and Paula comforting Toby who had fallen out of his stroller while struggling against being strapped in. They had not accepted with enthusiasm, but they had not refused either. Eleanor made pâté, and bought French bread, and chocolate, and juice for Toby in a small waxed carton with a straw. Lindsay brought six mauve chrysanthemums in a cone of cellophane printed to resemble lace. Toby climbed out of the crocheted blanket and drank his juice on his mother's knee and stared at Eleanor's hair. They had stayed until ten fifteen, and Paula had been able to look straight at Eleanor for a few seconds and say uncertainly, "That was kind of you."

Eleanor took her glasses off.

"If kindness isn't just a form of self-interest, thank you."

A few weeks later, Lindsay asked if she could bring her younger sister. She looked at a point just past Eleanor's left ear while she asked this, and the request became entangled in a long and confused explanation of how Lindsay's parents' inability to parent in any sustained way had left Lindsay as the only person in her sister's life who could provide any mothering. It was an anxious task, Lindsay implied, since her sister seemed to have inherited her parents' taste for a wild and irresponsible life. She was working in a club in Ladbroke Grove as a warm-up disc jockey when she could get the work, and Lindsay was worried about the ways in which she was spending her free time.

"What is her name?" Eleanor said.

"Julia," Lindsay said.

"Jules," Jules said, when she came. She had red-and-yellow striped hair and was wearing a flowered tea dress over thick black leggings and heavy laced-up boots. She had on purple lipstick. Toby stopped staring at Eleanor's hair and stared at Jules instead. She stared back, her bitten-nailed hands wrapped round a mug of tea, which was all she would drink. She spoke to no one except to say, her eyes roving over the incoherent contents of Eleanor's sitting room, "Cool room."

Lindsay had come round to Eleanor's house the next morning. She had a baby cyclamen in a plastic pot in her hand.

"It's a bit awkward," Lindsay said.

Eleanor smiled at Noah. He was lying in his pram, wearing a yellow knitted hat that made him resemble an egg in a cozy.


"Jules, well, Jules doesn't live in a world where people say please and thank you much."

"I'm used to that," Eleanor said.

"I didn't want you to think-" Lindsay stopped.

"I didn't."

Lindsay held out the cyclamen.

"Please ..."

Eleanor transferred her stick from one hand to the other.

"I like cyclamen. But I don't need an apology."

"Bah," Noah said from his pram.

Lindsay looked down at him.

"Jules never pays him any attention. It's as if she hasn't seen him."

Eleanor took the cyclamen out of Lindsay's hand.

"She's seen him all right. Thank you for this."

"I don't expect she'll come again-"


"I'm sorry-"

"Do you know," Eleanor said, "these days, I seem to save getting upset for the big things."

Almost two months later, Jules did come again. She wore a pink baby-doll chiffon top and a leather waistcoat and a miniskirt over jeans. She thrust a parcel wrapped in newspaper at Eleanor and went wordlessly off to the kitchen to make tea. In the newspaper parcel was a battered hand mirror made of black papier mâché inlaid with mother-of-pearl.

"Thank you," Eleanor said, surveying herself in the clouded glass. "I am very touched."

Jules shrugged. She looked round Eleanor's determinedly unmodernized kitchen.

"Yeah," she said approvingly.

It was that same evening that Toby slid down from Paula's knee and went to stand two feet in front of Jules so that he could examine her properly. It was that same evening that Eleanor described her childhood, growing up in a tall redbrick house down the southern end of the Munster Road. Her bedroom had looked out onto the railway, and her world, she said, had been a linear one, defined by the number 14 bus route, with school in Putney at one end, and infrequent snatches of bright-lights life in Piccadilly at the other. It was that evening that Lindsay had broken down completely and out of the blue, and Jules had fled to the stairs where Eleanor found her steadily banging her head against the wall while chanting, "Shit, shit, shit," like a mantra. It was also the evening when, escorting them all out of her front door and down the negligible path to the pavement, Eleanor had seen her neighbor of two doors away, a well-dressed woman invariably in a professional-looking suit, pause in the process of unlocking her own front door to look at them all with more than passing interest, with, in fact, considerable curiosity. Eleanor looked back. The woman gave an irresolute smile. Eleanor nodded.

"Who's she?" Paula said.

"A Miss Campbell, I believe."

"Shush," Lindsay said. "She can hear you."

Miss Campbell got her door open and pulled her key free.

"She can," she said, and stepped inside.

The door closed. Jules was standing on the pavement, her fingers in her mouth.

"Ask her too," she said.

"I think," Eleanor said, "Miss Campbell doesn't lack for a social life."

"I dare you," Jules said.

Blaise Campbell arrived some Fridays later, with a bottle of Riesling and a bunch of violets. Noah was complaining in his pram and Toby had taken the crocheted blanket under the table and was lying with his thumb in his mouth and his free hand grasping his mother's foot. Lindsay and Paula watched Blaise enter Eleanor's sitting room as if she were embarking on the unknown tests of an initiation rite.

"We are not used," Eleanor said, "to wine as superior as this. Thank you."

Blaise made a little deprecating gesture. Perhaps she was thirty-five, Paula thought, perhaps older. She had the polish of someone older but that might be because she was a lawyer or an accountant or one of those professionals who have to look older than they really are in order to look as if they know what they are doing. She watched Blaise step round Toby's protruding foot in its blue-and-red slipper sock, and take a chair with the neatness of someone used to doing it in public. Paula looked at Blaise's hands. Well cared for. Ringless. She had folded them on the table, as if she were in a meeting. Perhaps she was also used to meetings.

"It's very kind of you," Blaise said, "to include me."

Eleanor smiled at her.

"I expected you to turn me down."

"Oh no."

Noah's voice rose to a wail.

"He's hungry," Lindsay said. She went over to the pram, her skirt rucked up from where she had been sitting. "He's always hungry."

Blaise said politely, "How old is he?"

"Eight months."

Under the table, Toby's hand left his mother's foot and walked, crabwise, across the floor to one of Blaise's feet. It was shod in a patent-leather pump. The hand considered the patent leather for a moment and tried a few experimental taps, and then it crept up Blaise's foot and grasped her ankle.

"Oh!" Blaise said. Her eyes widened.

Paula glanced under the table.

"Stop it, Toby."

Toby, his thumb still in, paid no attention.

"Let go!" Paula said.

Blaise said hastily, "I don't mind ..."

"Don't you?"


Paula sat back. It was another tiny test.

"Oh well then-"

Blaise looked round at them all. She cleared her throat. Paula tried to catch Lindsay's eye, to mouth at her, "She thinks we're a meeting!"

"I probably shouldn't ask this," Blaise said, "especially on my first visit, but-but can anyone join?"

Eleanor put a handful of old-fashioned hock glasses with green stems down on the table.

"Within reason-"

"It's just," Blaise said, "it's just that I've got a friend, I mean a colleague, someone I work with, who was terribly envious of me when I said where I was coming tonight. She says she almost never gets to talk to women, except at work, she's just too busy." She looked round the circle. She said, a little louder, "She's the breadwinner, you see. Her husband is an artist. They have two little girls. She simply made me promise I'd ask. So I have."

Eleanor drew the bottle toward her. Nobody spoke. Toby let his hand slide down Blaise's foot to her shoe. His hand was warm and slightly damp. He found he could stick it and unstick it to her shoe.

Eleanor pulled the cork out of the Riesling. She looked at Blaise. Blaise was looking at Lindsay and Lindsay was looking at Noah.

"Well, bring her," Eleanor said. "Why not?"


Excerpted from Friday Nights by JOANNA TROLLOPE Copyright © 2008 by Joanna Trollope. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Joanna Trollope, the nationally bestselling author of seventeen other books, including Second Honeymoon, Brother & Sister, Marrying the Mistress, and The Rector's Wife, lives in Gloucestershire, England.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Friday Nights 2.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I always enjoyed all of Joanna Trollope's books but this one did not interest me. Too many characters and detail...was not inviting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a big Trollope fan and have read most everything she's written in the past. This book is nowhere near as good as prior efforts. The characters seem like stereotypes and I had trouble really caring about what happened to them. Hope she gets back to her usual sterling form with her next novel.
bookholiday More than 1 year ago
Great Read as usual. I was not disappointed.
Bijou1313 More than 1 year ago
Even if Joanna Trollope wasn't a master at plot lines, which she is, I'd read her books just for her writing style. Her characters are so lifelike and believable they leap off the page. In fact, I'm going to re-read this book right now!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't like the dialog, or lack of. There was no real conversations, but instead 1-word answers. I love all books just for the sake of reading but I couldn't wait for this one to be over. The characters were blah and ere was no depth or real story, certainly no climax. I would not recommend this book at all. Waste of my time.
booksJT More than 1 year ago
This is the first time reading anything by this author. It was slow reading but it did pick up near the end. I felt sympathy for Paula's character. She had an out of control son and man who did't want to make any commitments. The other characters seem to bring the story full circle especially Elenor's character. She was the matriach of the group. All the women seemed to rely on her for advice.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The characters were all over the place, I found myself not liking any of them. The story jumped from one character to another with no transition. Very hard to Get into any of the plot lines. I wouldn't buy another book from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One must like to think to enjoy this book The story is for women about women and our relationships. I took my time reading it and found it very fulfilling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found the story to be poignant character study of other characters. Made me want to know more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Friday Nights was an okay book, good read, just jumps a lot to different characters.
Odie1967 More than 1 year ago
a lovely read showing how friendships among women are constantly in flux - brings to mind the poem that says people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime, when you figure out which one it is, you will know what to do for each person.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
found it difficult to get into.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lynne229 More than 1 year ago
Friday Nights was a quick read. It was easy to get to know the characters and to form a relationship with them. Bittersweet-the way life is. I would like to read more from Joanna Trollope.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
good read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's on sale for a reason.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Everybody who thinks it's bad i think they are right. The author had bad poorly lame idea. I would NOT be suprized if this was his first and only book. I cant bejieve this scope for the book. Its not that good. I aggree with it being on sale. I mean people they put worse books for less. You can not see the characters and settig in your head. You cant make the movie in your mind. The author is hardly desriptive and you hardly know what is going on. I want to flush this book down the toilet. Plus who would want to read a book called Friday Night because it sounds like a little kids book. Oh wait it is. An adult or even a toddler will not uunderstand this story. Bye bye now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago