I have taken several stabs at this blog entry without a viable result, probably because I have tried to start on a positive note about book clubs and work my way into the novel, but there is an elephant in the library. I love the premise of a novel centered around a book club as “The Reading Group” is, but the (i.e. my) trouble is the gallery of characters in the novel. For approximately half the novel, I was still reminding myself, who was married to who, who had the adulterous husband, whose boy had an accident, and who was a GP. Five women are in the reading group; all of them have one or more men in their lives; all but one have 1-3 named children, two have mothers that also play a role in the novel. There are many characters; the list of characters in front helps, although in my opinion it should not be necessary. I understand the monstrous task Elizabeth Noble has given herself: write a novel with five main characters in circa 400 pages. Not easy, but unfortunately it shows.
With the elephant out of the way, perhaps now I can write about all the wonderful, interesting facets of “The Reading Group”.
“The Reading Group” is book porn. I am amazed by my choice of words, but it is true! “The Reading Group” is just the kind of thing, every female bookworm dreams about getting together with a group of like-minded bookish women and discussing books infused with tea, red wine, and the drama of their own everyday lives. Over the course of a year’s shared reading experiences, the women – with all their differences – become good friends. “The Reading Group” definitely is a woman’s book, as the viewpoints are all female, with the exception of Tim (the good and decent) who narrates a scene when he has left his wife.
There is a row of themes in “The Reading Group” and I do not want to spoil your reading experience, but to mention one that touched me: Finding your true love. “The Reading Group” is not a superficial romance (thankfully), but several of the women deal with their choices of true love. Harriet settled with Tim as her true love passed her by and the feeling of missing out of the best resonates through her marriage. Nicole has the body, home, husband, children etcetera, but her husband is a serial adulterer. Polly in her forties is giddy with love as her boyfriend proposes. Twenty-year-old Cressida worries about her longtime boyfriend going off to university, but end up pregnant herself by another. Each of them have a notion of who their true love is and they are not always right. Perhaps the typical notion of a true love in the form of one person is too narrow. Perhaps it is the context of happiness with people you love notwithstanding the nature of your relationship. They may be your significant other, your child, your dear friends, mentors, colleagues or the result of so many other connections we make through our lives.
Now, I cannot leave this blog entry without writing something about book clubs. I would love to be in a book club – and I have tried a couple or three. In one attempt, we did not get further than reading the first book. In another attempt, we did not have the discipline to get started during that phase of getting-to-know-one-another. In a third attempt, a friend and I, who were roommates and travelled together, read aloud to each other. It was marvelous! It goes to show, that I am a book club novice but hope that one day, I will participate. Now “The Reading Group” is concluded with extra material, including a short interview with Elizabeth Noble and notes on starting your own book club.