The Book Club
I’m not afraid to admit that over the years I have assumed that as I age and expand my life – there are certain inevitable truths that will come to pass.
Bearing children, babysitting grandchildren, driving sensible cars, wearing stockings on a regular basis, menopause, taking up an organic diet, drinking herbal teas, going walking on the beach with the dogs at sunset.
Once or twice, I have probably even imagined belonging to a bookclub. And on Tuesday night, I went to one for the first time. *names have been changed to protect privacy
We arrived to a comfortable home – with warm, beige toned soft furnishings, ornaments and decorations that were ‘thrown together’ with a sense of having unpacked a lifetime of journeys and souvenirs on the walls. The lighting was delicately dancing over flattering shadows. It was warm and scented with the heady smell of cinnamon and berry candles, a barely touched cheeseboard on the coffee table, and photos of family and grandchildren everywhere.
Enter the characters into the scene, each one perfectly put together, a magnificent artwork of costuming and makeup.
Evelyn, sitting tall and graceful in her chair, makeup resolute, hair dark & practically short. Her manner was quiet and reserved and her eyes sharp. You knew that you didn’t want to mess with her.
Next to her was Trish. Her hair, ash blonde with honey highlights, short with highly functional makeup, a touch of toughness and survivor about her, the set of her chin so friendly and yet wary.
Lynne, the eldest, so complete in life, so happily married and all her conversation filled with joy in life, and enthusiasm bubbling up out of her. Short and weatherworn skin, brown with sun but glowing with expensive mosturisers, shoes perfectly perfect. Her eyeglasses were practical not excessive and the light of her eyes gleaming no matter who she rested her gaze on.
When sitting beside Jaclyn it’s a wonder anyone was seen in the glowing radiance. Her perfect coiff was adorned with sparkling diamonds, beads, glistening nails and bright eyes, and her speech peppered with perfectly rounded vowels and high notes on all the right accents. Her effervescent approach makes one question why she’s even here, she is so busy consuming life’s experiences that reading seems hardly her cup of tea, until you realise that the captive audience and emotive setting must be magnetic.
Skipping myself and companion, and giving a courtesy nod to Jeff, the husband of the host, who diligently filled glasses all night and mostly allowed the women free scope of review and comment, we find ourselves with Olivia.
Olivia must have been a perfectly natural blonde, for her wide open blue eyes are full of affecionate compassion and her honeyed, soft hair sits so well. Although her eyes sit behind Versace reading glasses, she laughs with her whole upper torso, leaning into it and out of it again. Her engaging glances around the room are earnest and kind.
Lucy is Scottish, and practical, and probably the eldest of a number of siblings. She neither overmentions or undermentions her husband, who we learn has just received his PhD. She wears bright red, and her hair is cut short and practical, for she must have hated it her whole life, mousy brown, more frizz than curl, more straight than frizz. Whether it’s a combination of her intoxicating accent or her love of words and almost irresistable expressions, Lucy seems the Happiest of them all. This woman is not only contented but she is over-contented. She is genuinely happy.
Martha, our congenial and quirky host is an earth mother. She wears her salt and pepper hair short, and practical 3/4 capri pants in beige. Her smooth, olive skin and ethnic earrings say confidence & assurance. She’s one of the women who automatically makes you think, midwife. She’s comfortable with her breasts, large as they are and you almost want her to walking around naked as she seems like she’d be more comfortable and beautiful without clothes. She radiates. She glows. I later learn that she works in morgues and with blood testing, dead bodies. It explains her ‘earthiness’. Her comfortability with life, death and body things.
This house is hers, and this is her book club, and these are her friends.
The night ‘officially’ begins, the wine poured and the books laid out on the dining table. The women retrieve their latest offerings from handbags & plastic bags. The laughing and merriment begins. In amongst reviews that invariably last about 3mins, there are milestones shared and stories told – everything from overseas travels, husbands, children, workmates to movies, Menopause the Musical, artwork. In it all there are dalliances on and off topic. The word Versace comes up again and again – designer of choice for the glasses adorning some. Jokes about Jeff’s presence, references to other titles, jokes and assurances on the reading speed and style of some, compared to others. Some of these women are functional and practical. They devour their words and craft them into wellformed reviews, others really are there for the assurances that they themselves, are significant, connected.
All in all, when they come together to share the stories and the books that have adorned their bookshelves, beside tables, handbags, accompanied them into dreamtime .. it’s not about the words of others but their own. This magnificent arrangement merely a landscape background for painting their own stories into lush prose and large adjectives that perhaps wouldn’t have a time or space elsewhere.
And then where the reviewing was all done, and the commenting on the reviewing, and the recommendations and retrievals .. books back into the pile or secreted back into handbags; the cake came out.
I have been to Book Club. I think I liked it. I was struck by their warmth, and how quickly they opened their arms up, and their admonishing love of one another. I think I observed much much more than Book Club, it was more of a middleaged lesbian love affair for the kind of love that exists between friends and women who are friends only. Stranger and completely separate from any other love they might be engaged with.