Friday, 1 September 2017
Meet me at Book Club!
Over the past 5 or 6 years, I've had the pleasure of visiting Clubs far and wide to chat about my 2 books, The Housemaid's Daughter and The Girl from Simon's Bay. And what a pleasure it has been! Lively questions, interesting discussion, engaging company.
I think we all imagine that Book Clubs are a relatively modern invention but actually they've been around for a lot longer than we realise. The first ones sprang up in 18th century England, when books were far more rare and expensive than they are today. In those days, if you loved reading, you could join a club and thereby get access to many more titles than you could possibly afford on your own. But... looking at paintings of the boisterous gatherings from those times, I wonder if they were really all about reading?
And here we come to the second - and some might say more important - aspect of a Book Club: its social nature. Getting together to chat, have a coffee or something stronger, a little light refreshment or a full-on meal, attending a Book Club meeting guarantees a couple of hours of lively chat and laughter plus some discussion about books, too. In fact, many of those early Clubs never got around to talking about literature, they just dived straight into the refreshments!
And how have Book Clubs evolved for our digital age? Well, if you live far from an urban centre, you can join an online club. This will give you access to a world-wide group of readers, and you can choose to focus on books in a particular genre, find friends, exchange reviews and engage in chats. It's not quite as sociable as being there in person, but you can always make an occasion out of it and raise a glass of wine towards the screen.
So what is it about books and reading that engages us so much?
One of the most beautiful answers comes from screenwriter William Nicholson, as spoken by Anthony Hopkins in the movie Shadowlands:
We read to know we're not alone...