Brand building through storytelling

My first book club

Am I the only female reader around who has never belonged to a book club? Who in fact has resisted the very idea?

For years now, my bookish friends have been gathering in one another’s living rooms with wine and nibblies, ostensibly to talk about a book but really to dish about life, love, longing…the whole glorious muddle. They’re having such a fine time that men are beginning to start guys’ book clubs dedicated to weighty tomes about science and history.

I thought the whole point of a book club was dishing with your pals, not pondering Worthy Ideas, but really, what do I know about this trend? I’ve been sitting it out, Rosiedetermined to read my choice of the moment and not my book club’s latest selection. I like to browse through a bookstore and grab whatever strikes my fancy (latest pick: Rosie Little’s Cautionary Tales for Girls, by the mordantly original Danielle Wood). Or I’ll spot Shirley Hazzard‘s richly textured Transit ofVenus on my shelf and plunge into this 20th-century take on the classic 19th-century novel for the third time. How could I give myself up to the layered, lyrical complexities of Transit of Venus if I had to keep pace with my book club?

I’ve heard of book clubs so close-knit and well-established that women wait for years to be considered for a place in the inner sanctum, just as they might at a tennis club or the private school where they hope to send their baby-to-be. Meanwhile I’ve politely declined invitations to check out this or that book club—until the e-mail came from a friendly-sounding woman in my neighbourhood. Her book club had chosen my memoir, My Mother’s Daughter, for their next meeting. Would I come by for cheese and chat? But of course!

The other night I arrived at the appointed hour, talking points in hand. Why I wrote this book, an excerpt to read aloud…all that predictable stuff. The women, all fans of the book, wanted none of this. They all jumped in with a joyous clamour of questions, none of which corresponded to the ones I’d posted on this site in a downloadable pdf. Such illuminating questions I had written, at my publisher’s command! I hadn’t thought so hard about a book since I tried to get my head around Ulysses back in my student days. “Readers find it quite a challenge to think of their own questions,” I was told. “You need to nudge the discussion along.” Oh, really? Not these readers.

I thought the group would want me to duck out early so they could vent about aspects of the book (or about me) that had annoyed or enraged them. But no, they hoped I’d stay. Together we mused on life’s glorious muddle in between reflections on the book. Around 10 o’clock, someone asked, “By the way, how did you come to write this book?”

These women are old friends who met as neighbours with young kids and then deepened their connection over books. At least a decade has passed since their first meeting, and now they don’t all share the same local park. But there’s no mistaking the ease, trust and empathy that binds this group and that made me feel part of it all.

As they sent me on my way with an armful of flowers, I thought of a book they’d enjoy for a future meeting: David Gilmour‘s memoir The Film Club. One of these days, I’ll get around to writing here about this wise, graceful book and the memories it evoked of adolescence (my own and my son’s). For now I’ll just tell you that it recounts a life-changing deal the author struck with his rebellious teenage son: the kid could drop out of school, but only on condition that he watch three films a week with his dad (who happens to be a film critic and knows a thing or two about rebellion himself). “This book will speak to you as parents, and as the kids you used to be, and it’s a wonderful read,” I said.

They’ve just added The Film Club to their list. And they’ve suggested I might want to come back some night, just to talk about books and life. Sitting trends out has been a lifelong habit with me. But you know,  I’m feeling kind of tempted.

Posted by Rona

Leave a Reply

Stay up-to-date with Rona.

To see what’s on my mind these days, friend me on Facebook.

Miss my old site?

Visit the archive to find your favorite blog posts and Chatelaine editorials or browse my published articles. Sorry, I’m not blogging anymore.