I recently saw the trailer for the new movie, Book Club and it compelled me to reflect on my own book-loving comrades. So I emailed ‘the girls’ and said, “It’s time,” and much to my relief they gave me their blessing to write this, because they are my friends and they are ace.
If we are to look at the definition of what a Book Club is, I think most of us would agree it is a group of like-minded book lovers coming together with the intention of discussing the stories and characters of a book read by the entire group, over an evening of refreshments at a pre-assigned location.
If only I had known what it really meant to be part of a Book Club.
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Flashback sequence …
I arrived seven years ago in Proper Crescent, Pleasantville, and was instantly befriended by a neighbour who knew I had a love of books, but also saw the twinkle in my eyes that signalled a predisposition for a good laugh or forty.
I was quick sticks asked to join Book Club, made up of local girls which I thought would be a wonderful way to meet new people. I was feeling excited to be included.
It was very simple. We each take a turn to host Book Club, pick a title and we all read the book and come together to discuss it. I couldn’t stuff this up if I tried.
We were allocated The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. It was the size of a house brick and weighed twice as much. If I was to say there was a lot of walking in deserts and brothers and second cousins on their mother’s side killing each other back in ancient Egypt, then you could save yourself a few weeks, but if that’s your thing, knock yourself out.
Anyhoos, that’s beside the point. I was committed to being open-minded and I wanted to impress the girls with my bookish ways, so I tagged it with sticky notes and insightful metaphors and took myself and The Sodding Red Bloody Long Tent off to Book Club.
1. You don’t take the book to Book Club (let alone make notes in it, you dork!)
I arrived at Megsie’s (early mind you), with my book in hand having never met her, and rang the doorbell.
Megsie: “Oh hi you must be Jaq.”
Me: “Hi Megan, thanks for having me.”
Megsie: “Pleasure, come in. You’re a touch early (nerd) so you can help me with the cheese platter if you like. What’s that in your hand?”
Me: “The book.”
Megsie: “Lord, what have you done to it?”
Me: “I made notes for our discussion.”
2. Take two Panadol after Book Club and before you go to bed
I very quickly came to understand the ethos behind this Book Club. The size and literary weight of a book had no correlation to the amount of time you talk about it, which was approximately five to ten minutes, tops.
As the night went on I got to meet and get to know the other girls and quickly worked out why everyone arrived in cabs or got a lift. Thankfully I lived in walking distance of Megsie’s so I gave up counting glass refills at about 10.15 pm.
12.45am I arrived home. The Gent was finishing off an overseas Skype call as I come hiccuping in through the back door.
The Gent: “Where have you been?”
Me: “Hic! Book-hic-lub.”
The Gent: “I thought you read books at this thing or some such?”
Me: “Hic. Appar-hic-ly snot.”
The Gent: “Who goes to Book Club and gets pissed?”
I just put up my hand and went to bed.
3. Always blame Book Club and always, always take your keys
Next month rolls around and I am off to Book Club. This time my Book Club sponsor Nad, arrives in a cab on the way as it is too far to walk, but I didn’t want to do a number on myself like I did the month prior. I promised myself to take it easy.
Me: “I won’t bother taking a key, I won’t be late.”
The Gent (somewhat dubious): “Are you sure? You might change your mind.”
Me: “Absolutely. I have to get up for my run in the morning.”
It ticks over 1am as Megsie’s husband Chris drops me out the front. Megsie has conned Chris into coming out in his PJs, piling six of us in his hybrid for the mass drop-off. I have no idea what book we were discussing. To be fair, it was seven years ago.
Of course, I don’t have my front door key, so it is not until I get home that I realise the sticky wicket I am in. My only option was to tap on the bedroom window to get The Gent to open the front door. I wasn’t prepared to go around the back and tap on Joan Rivers’ window. The spray I would cop from Joan would far outstrip any raised eyebrows from The Gent and at least he could relate to being held hostage by friends chanting, “one for the road”.
Our house is on a bit of a sloping block (and at that point, so was I). Our bedroom window is high above ground level with a thicket of bushes, camellias and other yet to be identified flora protecting it. Just think of the mass of thorny vines protecting Sleeping Beauty, except in this scenario The Gent is Sleeping Beauty and I am playing the part of Prince Pissy Pants, and the last thing this Sleeping Beauty would want from the prince is a smooch.
I eventually clamber up into the garden bed and fight my way through the angry mob of branches to the window, where I rap on the window for help. Eventually, I hear The Gent stir from his snore-numbing slumber and I eloquently remind him that I have left my keys at home.
The Gent: “Jesus Christ!” (Because he has never come home over-refreshed and under the influence apparently).
I untangle my way out of the bushes to a soundtrack of expletives, cats meowing and dogs barking off in the distance. It was safe to say that most of the neighbours knew I was home from Book Club.
The Gent meets me at the front door where I am waiting with camellias in my hair and pulling spider webs off my face.
The Gent: “What are you doing?”
Me: “What does it look like? I am baking a cake.”
The Gent: “Just come to bed.”
Me: “It’s not my fault. It’s Book Club.”
4. What happens at Book Club, stays at Book Club.
Then there was that time we took Book Club on the road for an overnight stay at the beach, and you won’t believe what happened …
5. Never leave your wingman
To touch on this road trip theme, there was also that time that we all gussied ourselves up and went off to the races together. Let’s just say this much.
6. Go ahead and treat yo’self
Of course, lovely gastronomic delights await you at Book Club, so it is the one night of the month that I let myself enjoy things like d’affinois, vintage blue and aged rind cheese, with the obligatory activated charcoal gluten-free cracker of course. I think the sparkling wine has been implied.
7. When you’re leaving, at least offer to drop someone home
Occasionally due to a self-imposed detox or court order, some of us lay off the booze for a bit. That’s okay, we all need to step away from it every now and then, just know you are doing pick-up and drop-off.
8. No poo-pooing someone’s choice of book. Suck it up buttercup
We all have different literary tastes. God knows my love of a good Kennedy biography probably bores the tods off others, but that is why we are in Book Club; that and the opportunity to go orienteering in one’s own garden beds at 1am. Have I mentioned that I am not bitter about the weeks lost reading The Red and Bloody Boring Tent? Sorry, Megsie.
9. There are no rules of Book Club
There is also the inevitable time that you just can’t get the book finished, no matter what. Kids, work and the craziness of life means that reading before sleep, sometimes just gives way to sleep. That doesn’t exclude you from coming to Book Club.
I thought some of you would love to know what have been our favourite titles, so I asked the chickies to give me their selections and I have compiled a Top Ten. See our list below and the link to them on GoodReads, so you can find out more … you are welcome.
In no particular order or distribution of preferences, because I can’t do the math:
- The Choke by Sofie Laguna
- In My Skin by Kate Holden
- Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
- Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
- The Double Life of Herman Rockefeller by Hillary Bonney
- The Dry by Jane Harper
- The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin
- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
- Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
- A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
This post originally appeared on Jaq Muller’s blog.