It was Eleanor — wise, calm and seemingly self-reliant — who started the Friday night social gatherings of the title of Joanna Trollope’s latest book. Facing a lonely old age after retiring from a fulfilling career as a health services administrator, she realises that what she needs in her life is people. After watching two young single mothers who live in the neighbourhood for a while, and deciding that they look as if they need her as much as she needs them, she invites them to her house for a drink and a chat. And so begin the Friday nights. This is a book ostensibly about the nature of modern female friendships but there’s more to it than that. Trollope deftly weaves into the narrative the issues of single motherhood and the guilt that working mothers feel, marital stress and the struggle for a work-life balance. And as a bonus there is a delightful passage where Toby, Paula’s eight-year-old son, learns to love football — Chelsea in particular — and teaches Eleanor about the game.