Thursday, February 20, 2014

"Friday Nights," by Joanna Trollope

I have written about English writer Joanna Trollope as one of the “middlebrow” writers whose work is not literarily significant, but is definitely a level or two above bestseller-type books written purely for entertainment. I have read several of her novels and enjoyed them. But reading her “Friday Nights” (Bloomsbury, 2008) reminded me of the gap between a book one enjoys and a book that satisfies. This story about six women friends of different ages and in different situations who meet regularly on, yes, Friday nights, and their intertwining and changing lives and relationships, is a kind of story I am quite fond of. And it has its moments. Characters grow, change, and learn about themselves. There are moments of female friendship, moments of romance, moments of marital problems and then reconciliation, moments of worries about children as well as total dedication to those children. There is the man one of the women starts dating, a man who gets too involved in the lives of the friends and spreads some dissension in the process; there is some heavy symbolism representing him as a seemingly amiable but in fact disruptive serpent-in-the-garden type. But the depictions of the characters don’t run very deep and are not very nuanced. The jacket copy calls Trollope’s novels “sparklingly readable,” and that is true, but it turns out not to be enough. “Friday Nights” is a quick read, and mildly enjoyable, but finally it left me unsatisfied, as empty calories do.

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