Someone, who will remain nameless but take it as read it was one of my many siblings, once said to me, ‘Why don’t you go to a book club?’
And I said ‘No’.
My favourite subject at school was English. For English O Level we studied, ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Lord of the Flies’ and ‘Of Mice and Men’.
I hate those books.
They may be very good books and probably you all love them, but we had to read a certain number of chapters each week so that we could discuss them in class and then write essays on them. Analyse them; chop them up into little pieces; dissect them until we were left with the bare bones of what the author really meant.
In my book, discussing and analysing is a certain way to ruin a good book.
(And also, Lara Jenkins, who was obviously one of those people who didn’t abide by the rules read ahead and shouted out ‘Oh no, XXXXX’s dead’ and ruined ‘Of Mice and Men’ for us all.)
Someone who will remain nameless (yes it’s the same nameless person not named above) goes to a book club and from what I can glean it consists of a lot of women meeting once or twice a month to discuss a particular book while possibly eating and probably drinking a lot.
It sounds just like my English literature classes.
Except there were boys in the class.
Except they didn’t serve alcohol.
The women take turns meeting at each other’s houses and providing a suitable venue to discuss the book.
They take turns to choose a book to analyse at the next meeting and there seems to be a certain amount of stress and worry associated with the choice. The following has to be considered:
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The Agonising Choice
- Will the book be suitable – is it high brow/low brow enough?
- Is it too long?
- Is it too short?
- Is there anything in the book which will upset or offend the other members of the group (eg. death of a relative, obsession with shoes, death of a pet etc. etc)?
- Will enough copies of the book be available to be procured quickly so that the book can be read by all members of the group before the next meeting? (They are the sort of women who don’t possess e-readers. They sneer at electronic reading devices. If they possess them, they keep them undercover.)
- Does the library possess copies?
- Is it fair to get the one library copy when other members of the group may not want to buy or can’t afford the book of your choice?
Okay, so you have joined a book group against your better judgement and the day of the meeting is drawing near. You check the calendar – oh no, the meeting is tomorrow! You haven’t read the book. You’ve been too busy. What do you do? You have to stay up all night reading it otherwise you may look stupid. You can’t upset/offend the person who chose the book.
You sit up all night reading. It’s a very boring book, and you’re supposed to be taking notes as well. You start skipping huge chunks of it. You read the last chapter in the hope that everything will be explained there. It isn’t. You get your tablet (don’t tell the others) and google the book. You find reading club notes about the book. You give up reading the book. You never want to see that book again, which is a shame really as you were looking forward to reading it.
Next day you attend the meeting, armed with your handwritten notes copied from the reading club notes you found online.
Snacks are served, drinks are served. You glance around. A couple of other women look bleary eyed as well and have the look of women who sat up all night tearing their hair out. You sneak a look at their copies of the book. They look pristine and suspiciously unread to you. You all begin an earnest discussion about the book, but digress and end up discussing the scandalous behaviour of the son of one of the book club member’s next door neighbours.
You get back to the book. A woman (who must have actually read the book) hates it. A woman (who is the one who chose the book for the group to read) loves it. There is a discussion. There is a bit of a row. It gets a bit personal. There are a few nasty jibes thrown. There isn’t any actual food thrown, thank goodness, as the cakes provided are hard as rocks and could probably inflict a nasty injury. There are tears. It turns out the tearful person has a few domestic issues. We abandon discussing the book again and listen to her marital problems.
We crack open another few bottles of wine. We have a bit of a sing song. One of the women pops out to get some more snacks and when she comes back she trips over a copy of the book which has been discarded carelessly on the floor. She starts screaming and writhing on the floor in a hysterical fashion. We glance at each other, not sure if she is having a fit. Someone hands around the plate of sandwiches again while we watch her. Eventually, another woman gets up and admits she has done first aid training. Soon, we all get up, gather around her and look at the stricken woman’s ankle which surely should not bend back at that angle. Someone goes to the kitchen and returns with a bag of frozen peas to put on the ankle. She beckons to another woman and they troop out to the kitchen to marvel at the disgusting state of the fridge.
One of the women fills a bowl with hot soapy water and starts cleaning out the fridge.
The injured party insists it’s just a sprain and, from her prone position, tries to pick up the cocktail sausages which are scattered around her. She holds them aloft and asks if anyone wants one. The ambulance people arrive and one kicks the offending book out of the way. As the woman is carried out to the ambulance, she shouts out “‘Great Expectations’ next time”.
There is a collective sigh.
I just read books on my own.