The book club I’m in has been ruined. What, for years, was a monthly meeting fuelled by good friends, good wine and good gossip with a little book business thrown in, is no longer.
We have started to talk about books.
Our free-range night of fun has somehow morphed into a serious, structured, session of literary dissection in a sterile environment where non-book talk is frowned upon. I am left wondering, what the hell happened?
We formed what we called “The Dysfunctional Book Club” several years ago. We were a group of school mums who enjoyed reading, enjoyed getting together but most of all enjoyed getting out of the house for a night free of kids, partners and pets.
For the first few years it was wonderful. Our book club was perfect, a night we all looked forward to, often the highlight of an otherwise monotonous school term.
There were no rules – I don’t know how other book clubs work, but ours worked like this: we would meet the second Tuesday of every month at someone’s house, or the pub if no one could be bothered cleaning their house.
We took turns at nominating the book of the month and would spend a hilarious 25 minutes arguing as to whether it was the right choice and then finally settle on a read, usually because we were starting to slur and it was a school night. That about summed up the time spent on books.
Our dysfunctional book club was completely stress-free. Those who wanted to read the chosen book did. Others who were content with just perusing the back cover blurb or Googling reviews did that.
Some got their kids to read the book for them and others just simply didn’t get around to even purchasing the book.
It didn’t matter ... it was never just about the book. In fact the book was really a bit of tasty dressing thrown in to legitimise a tasty mixed salad of people taking the opportunity to talk and share.
It’s was just so good to be with a group of like-minded women all facing similar life challenges, no matter how trivial. There were always endless issues to workshop: kids, partners, lack of partners and which Netflix series is worth a two series binge.
I’m convinced those sacred Tuesdays saved us hundreds of dollars in therapy. But before you judge us, there were some times when the book took centre stage. Jane Harper's latest offering, The Lost Man, inspired an intelligent discussion about life in the outback and how hard it would be to live hundreds of kilometres from a coffee shop.
Earlier in the year, A.J Finn’s The Woman in the Window encouraged a fascinating discussion about which of us spied on their neighbours and what they saw.
Oh, the good old days . It is a very different set up now. Books have become the focus almost by stealth. The first hint of change was in the mid-year, when one of our members had just got married in an exotic European location, and we were all desperate to hear the intimate details.
I could almost feel the mood in the room deflate as the conversation went from utopia to dystopia within minutes.
Seconds in to the interrogation , we were reprimanded for time wasting and reminded Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaids Tale required a lengthy untangling. I could almost feel the mood in the room deflate as the conversation went from Utopia to Dystopia within minutes.
I never did get the details of the wedding but I felt I knew Offred intimately.
There is a case to be made that a Book Club is does actually have the right to talk about books, just as Mothers Groups are formed to talk about mothering.
Instead of hiding behind the guise of book reading I should just organise a “Talk Club", and just call it that, instead of hiding behind a the “Book Club” title.
I can pretty much guarantee what would happen; the first item on the agenda at “Talk Club” would be “What are you reading? Have you got any summer suggestions?”