If you belong to a book club, this will make you laugh

funny read about book clubs
A funny thing happened at book club...ljubaphoto

There’s a 2018 US romcom called Book Club. It stars Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen, which, as book clubs go, must be up there for best post-discussion gossip of all time. In the film, they’ve been chatting about books for 40 years, all of it passing swimmingly, until one month they delve into the sex dungeon abyss of Fifty Shades Of Grey and all hell breaks loose. What the film is really about, of course, is the friendships between the women, who have used books as the glue to hold them together.

It is a universal truth that all book lovers need pals in order to chew over plots. As an author, I’m interested in the nuts and bolts of a book. I like to get my hands dirty, study the undercarriage, and slide out on a greased board only when I’ve fully understood how the book was put together. For non-writers, books will mean myriad things: education, relaxation, drifting off into the mind of characters you can never meet. Writer or not, though, we are all readers and at the end of a particularly fascinating or challenging book, I’m often left wanting to discuss it.

Once upon a time...

The founder of the first book club is said to be Anne Hutchinson. Stuck on a boat en route to the Bay Colony in 1634, she set up a weekly meeting where she and other women could pick apart the Sunday sermon. So revolutionary was the concept of dissecting the written word, the group was promptly shut down on arrival and Hutchinson was tried and then banished to Rhode Island.

setting up a book club

Reader beware

Nowadays, book clubs don’t carry the risk of imprisonment and are considered the essence of respectability – although they don’t come without danger. I asked followers on Twitter to share their book club stories: there’s the village where someone new arrived and asked if there was a book club. They were already oversubscribed so they maintained absolute silence. The newcomer set up her own book club and now two book clubs orbit the village, with the former group living in fear that they may be found out – like the end of Goodfellas but with the latest Marian Keyes hidden up a jumper. Then there was the man who accidentally turned up to a book club for lesbians, and the club where there is a requirement for every host to present a cheese and pineapple hedgehog at the conclusion of business.

I’ve dipped in and out of book clubs: ones in which each member takes it in turn to pick (I fondly remember the experimental sci-fi sex fantasy that was not a great hit). I’ve also been in dictatorships in which every read is chosen by the chair; and in groups where one person, having never read the book, would demand no spoilers. What has remained constant is the fun and lifelong friendships that can arise. And if you struggle to keep up? Take the lead from Marge from The Simpsons who, as chair, said: ‘Now we’ll go round the table and each of us can explain why we didn’t read the book.’

Some people, after all, are only there for the crisps...

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