02/06/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Friendship by the Book: Friday Nights

I was so drawn to these women on the other side of the pond that I felt like sharing Friday nights with them. In Joanna Trollope's latest novel, Friday Nights (Bloomsbury, 2008), Eleanor, a retiree who lives alone, spots two younger women from her bay window: one a newly widowed mother and the other, a single mom by virtue of her love affair with a married man. As an antidote to the loneliness she senses in them and to her own life of solitude, she invites them to her parlor. Before long, the warm get-togethers, lubricated with wine, become a cherished constant in their busy and dynamic lives.

They were women, of different ages and stages of life, who formed an amazing but unlikely sisterhood. The diverse group -- that numbered only six -- included women who were single, married, divorced, and widowed; unemployed, working at home, working away from home, and retired; with and without children. They came together on Friday nights drawn to the pleasures and promises of female friendship.

Through her characters, Trollope explores some of the universal emotions that characterize female friendships including love, loyalty, passion, and jealousy, as well as the difficulties women face in mastering the challenges of the work-life balance, aging, and balancing time between the women and men in our lives.

This engaging book is reminiscent of several other recent ones that explore the rich friendships between and among women. These include: The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton, The Professors' Wives Club by Joanne Rendell, and The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs.

Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author. She holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and is working on a book about female friendships which will be published by Overlook Press.

Friendship by the Book is an occasional series of posts on about books that offer friendship lessons.