The Reading Group by Elizabeth Noble was an absolute chance find for me. Essentially, I had to choose a book from my quarterly Leisure Books catalogue, and there were so many I wanted that I randomly chose the most reasonably priced one. Every now and then I have to take that route, otherwise I would spend my whole salary on books and not have a home to house them! I was a touch nervous, as it seemed a little more girly than my usual choices, but I liked the idea of a story about a book club. What a wonderful choice it turned out to be!
The Reading Group deals with the lives of a group of five women who have started a book club. They don’t all know each other well, which I thought was quite interesting, as my experience of book clubs is that they’ve always been set up by groups of close friends (often as an excuse to drink wine and have a goss of course!) The women are of varying ages, and at varying stages in their lives, but all of them have some personal secrets that eventually come out in the group. Their problems range from infertility to infidelity, with the odd abortion and marriage proposal thrown in for good measure. It is, in this sense, a very girly book, but luckily not in a cheesy or overly sentimental way. The author has developed strong characters that the reader can either relate to, or at least understand, and so it almost feels as if you are part of the reading group as they navigate this year of their lives.
I think the aspect I found most enjoyable was that they actually discussed books in the scenes revolving around the book club meetings. The book contains a chapter for every month of the year, and each one is titled according to the novel to be discussed at that month’s meeting. And the characters really do discuss the books and how the books relate to their lives, which appealed to me hugely. It seems almost like a suggested reading list, and I am very keen to get my hands on some of the books they ‘discussed’. Of course, there were some I have already read, but it was interesting to see what is essentially Elizabeth Noble’s perspective on these works, voiced through her characters. The only downside is that some of the discussions of the books I haven’t read yet gave a bit too much away, but I will still give them a go.
All in all, this book was a lovely combination of emotional and literary exploration. I am certainly going to be on the look out for more of Noble’s books, as her writing is enjoyable and insightful. Certainly a lot more enjoyable than the very corny spiel on the back of this book would have suggested!
My copy of The Reading Group was published by Penguin Books in 2010. It was originally published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2003