Recently I saw Joanna Trollope talk about her latest novel Friday Nights and wrote about it here. She was a great speaker and we had fun listening to her talk about her new experiences in researching for this book, and I had no hesitation in getting a signed copy.
Now I’ve read the book, and, while it was enjoyable, I don’t think it’s her best, (although in fairness I’ve only read a couple of other earlier ones). It examines women’s friendship as another facet of extended families.
A group of rather different women (and their children) get together regularly on Friday nights for companionship and support. Eleanor, the spinster matriarch oversees – she started it all off when she asked two young mums, Paula and Lindsay, that she saw through her window always hurrying with the pushchair, but never talking to each other if they’d like her to babysit.
Paula is an ex-mistress who was dropped when she got pregnant, but is kept in some style by her son Toby’s father; Lindsay is a young widow with a young son and a younger sister Jules who wants to be a top club DJ. Then there’s Blaise (honestly!) and her business partner Karen; Blaise is a single workaholic – Eleanor sees her younger self in her; Karen is an accountant, married to wastrel artist Lucas, with two kids. So that’s the group. Then Paula stirs things up by meeting the enigmatic Jackson and introduces him to everyone. Things are going to change…
Jackson is a true catalyst for change, in that a catalyst is added to a reaction, speeds it up, but remains unchanged itself. He’s good-looking, appears to be interested in everyone, appears to be considerate, but when asked to do more once things have started to change says ‘I don’t do that, (babe)’. We are always wondering about him and what his motives are, unlike in Muriel Spark’s superb short novel The Ballad of Peckham Rye, where a young man arrives in a staid area of South London, stirs things up and leaves, but we do engage with him. In Spark’s novel, the story is told mostly from her catalyst’s perspective, but we never get that from Jackson at all. His involvement is told entirely from the others’ viewpoints, and that made him definitely creepy in my view.
Much is made in the book of Jules’ transformation into an up and coming club DJ, and young Toby’s introduction to the joys(!) of soccer – both areas in which the author had to do some serious research. This makes for some rather clunky dialogue for Jules in particular for although she is a likeable young thing, the world of clubs doesn’t sit well with the rest of the novel.
I found it a good read, but nothing special. However the evening with Joanna Trollope I went to was special and I shall keep the book for memories of that. 6/10
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