* The names of the people in this blog have been changed to characters from Jane Austen’s novels to protect their identities. Similarities between the characters and the book clubbers may be intentional but they may not.
Jane greeted me at the door with her infectious smile and invited me in. The house may as well have been Netherfield with its grand, brick exterior, arched entryways and wide staircase. It was the first time Jane had hosted book club in the two years since its very modest beginnings. She lived a little closer into the city than most of us, and was conscious that many of us ladies in the outer suburbs had babies or toddlers, so more often than not, it was easier for us to host.
That’s probably what I love most about our book club-there’s a good mix of mums, career women, opinionated and passive personalities, and ladies with a variety of tastes and passions. I initially started it to catch up with my friends and thought if I could read a new book every month too, that would be a bonus. As a mum of two little ones, it is also lovely to have something to read, something to look forward to, and some time with my girlfriends that doesn’t involve spending much money or going to pubs or clubs with lecherous gentlemen and sticky floors. (Somewhere between my twenty-fourth and thirtieth birthdays, that got very old- and I got old, I suspect).
Jane had recently got promoted and had been given a send off that evening by her work crew. With a few wines under her belt already, we opened a Shiraz to warm us up. That’s the thing about big, old houses with fancy archways, it can be pretty, bloody cold. (Nothing on Jane Austen times though, I’m sure). Marianne and Charlotte arrived next. It seemed to be good news all around as Marianne had just bought a town house in Brunswick. An iphone was passed around with photos of the new place and we all “oohed” and “aahed” over the beautiful rooms.
As usual, Charlotte had excelled herself again in the food department and brought risotto balls. With Jane’s rice-paper rolls and my lacklustre cupcakes (I’d received a lot of help from my three year-old, bless him), there was a good spread so far. Next, Emma arrived with a friend she had invited along, Mary. Emma had also just bought a new house so the iPhone was passed around again. Mary was fairly contained and didn’t say too much at her first book club, but you could hardly blame her as she was probably just testing the water.
This was the crew for tonight. There are several others but, as always, some could not make it. That is the beauty of our large group: people show up if they can and there are no hard feelings if you can’t. One of the girls has a newborn, one is overseas and a couple have moved interstate, so the group is always changing. Each meeting there is a different dynamic depending on who can come, which keeps things interesting. There is also no punishment dolled out if you don’t read the book. Some nights it may be the topic of conversation for fifteen minutes and sometimes fifty. More often than not, the conversation will revert back to work, children, houses, impending trips or the food someone has brought to share. (Or perhaps Colin Firth as Darcy in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. I couldn’t resist the chance to fit his picture into this aptly titled blog).
This month was the first time I had not read the book. After having read dramas, autobiographies, romances, historical novels, tragedies and even erotic fiction (yes, Fifty Shades), we had settled on a non-fiction book, I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson. (I had been busy but perhaps the thought of reading about someone taking the fun out of my eating didn’t appeal to me as much as the mindless escapism of a novel. I felt very naughty though. I will take a look at it soon). Thus, the topic of conversation mostly revolved around diet. The book had been Charlotte’s suggestion and she had brought more to share, one in particular about a Paleo-like diet she had started.
Between those of us who had tried several diets, the vegans, the vegetarians, the gluten-free eaters and the daughter of a naturopath, it made for a very interesting conversation. One which seemed to follow a remarkable pattern of one person touting the amazing properties of a certain food, and then someone else explaining why it was not so marvellous. Ironically, the Doritos were the only thing in our spread to be completely devoured, despite the aforementioned conversation. Probably because we had all given up on what to eat by this point.
With the conversation ending up back on teething and toilet-training (toddlers, not husbands), it was time for us all to return to our humble abodes. Say what you will about girls being catty at times, but I always feel completely supported by the women in my book club. Whether talking about fictional or real romances, tiffs or troubles, this amazing group of girls make me feel like I can do anything and be anything I want.
“A single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife,” says Austen on the first page of Pride and Prejudice, but every woman everywhere, should be in want of a book club. But it’s not really about the books, it’s everything else that makes it wonderful.