Welcome to our book group

There are two questions I get asked when I mention my Book Group, “Oh, you’re in a book group?” which is actually more of a statement and more about the person you’re talking to. It usually means “I’ve always wanted to be in a book group.” And  “I’d like to be in your book group but I’m too polite to ask.” The second question, and almost invariably the one I get from men is, “Do you actually read the books or is it all about the wine?” Which to me is a kind of obvious question because why would you get together to talk about books if you’re going to take it all so seriously? Of course it’s about the wine, and just a little bit about the chocolate. What book?

Now you may be beginning to think we’re just a bunch of alcoholics but as any stay-at-home mother of toddlers knows you need a good excuse sometimes to do something remotely grown up and if it has a deadline, that’s a good reason. I have in fact heard some horror stories from friends about rather totalitarian groups where you shouldn’t bother coming if you’ve not read the book and have nothing interesting to say. You should go home and hang your head in shame (and probably have a good half bottle of wine because isn’t that the point?).

That criteria alone would have reduced us to three members for at least three years had we not allowed our friend Charlotte to come along, and in fact begged her at times; “It doesn’t matter if you haven’t read the book.” “We don’t care if you didn’t even bother to check the library to see if they had it, just come and talk with us!”

Charlotte is spectacularly married-sans-children and busy enough to have much more fun, hence her sporadic reading. Charlotte of course is the most grown up of all of us although she’d deny this with a flush in her porcelain cheeks just because we noticed. Charlotte lives in the most grown up house of all of us with her husband and giant pom-pom Poppy, a labrador-poodle cross. We need her in the group so we have somewhere nice to go once in a while and dream of how you want your house to look if you ever grow up. She is stylish and yet too modest to show it. Charlotte would fit anywhere, in the royal courts of Elizabethan England, slaying them on Master Chef, trekking some remote Peruvian snow-capped mountain or on the end of your couch listening to you drown your week in a bottle of vino. We all want to be like Charlotte.

Emily would flop herself down in a chair with a look of absolute longing at the wine and say “It’s been a hell of a day, I’ll have a glass. Oh, and I’m nearly finished the book.” To which we would laugh and say ‘no spoiler warnings here! This is what happens…’ Secretly, I think she likes it like that. It’s a bit like “Choose your own adventure” depending on who’s doing the telling and how much they liked it. Emily doesn’t waste any time finishing a book with a less than must read review. A hand made editorial team. She’s the clever one, and gorgeous too.

Miranda is the person everyone wants to be their friend. She’s the first to say “I’ll do it!” when you have some wild scheme in mind. She’s tall, tanned and confident. Only someone happy in their own skin could study all day and stitch all night whilst bringing up two gorgeously good children all the while having a laugh at herself and the world. You can’t help but feel good around her, and only just a little bit inadequate. She likes books that are gritty, edgy and on the seedy side of life and has helped me open my eyes on more than one occasion.

Then there’s me, Jess. I’m the ideas girl and it’s lucky I’ve managed to find some friends who are crazy enough to listen to my ideas and say “Hell yeah, I’m in!”. I read Ian Serralier’s The Silver Sword over and over again as a child. Back then it was only my name which appeared like a list on the library catalogue card in the little sleeve on the inside cover. Yet it wasn’t until I revisited it recently that I realised it was the character of Ruth who I most loved and wanted to be like as I grew up. She was the strong, sensible one who kept it together when the world fell apart around her. I’m still trying to be like Ruth. We all pick the books, I make the list and then we’re off on another year of reading.

Betty-Sue and Mary-Kate come as a team and in fact I’m not sure if the two ever really exist on their own even though they both have busy families. This is a true double-act, so familiar they have been known to arrive in slippers and the same outfit. Between them they offer some amazing life experiences and not just once have shocked us with a tasty tidbit of information, occasionally harrowing for Miranda, Betty-Sue’s daughter-in-law “There are some things you just don’t need to know!”. You can always count on these two to have read the book at least once, which is really lucky for the rest of us.

Abigail is like a breath of fresh air. Effortlessly elegant she can charm her way into any conversation. She is the girl you can talk late into the night to and would trust your life with. Memorably horrified to find that in her first book group meeting, after she had slogged her way through a particularly treacherous ‘The Lacuna’, at least two of us didn’t finish it and one didn’t even start. She had been terrified to turn up in case of severe retribution, then sat in incredulous disbelief until we plied her with lots of wine and discussed much more than the in’s and out’s of the book. I still think she hasn’t recovered from the shock.

Jane oozes style, sweetness and suburban sophistication. Sometimes I think I’m just not trying. In the lead up to hosting our Christmas party Jane managed to squeeze in a cycling tour with her husband, an overseas holiday, and a trek to Borneo with her daughter in time to make her house look sensational for a stack of visitors. To look at how relaxed she is you’d think she’d just popped down to Coles for some milk. Jane’s a true reader who has read widely often suggesting some wonderful titles for us. It’s a seal of approval when she smiles and says “Oh, that’s a good one.”

The best thing about it is that we’ve read so many books over the years. When I started working fulltime again I thought “Well there’s goes my reading!” but what I discovered was that I always made time to read even if it was when I should’ve been getting my beauty sleep or making the kids’ lunches (oh well). So pass the plonk, my Kindle’s fully charged and I’ve a quiet corner to curl up in. Whether it’s borrowed, downloaded, firsthand, second hand, book, ebook, CD (DVD!?) or PDF we’ll read it (and drink it). Here’s to stories and my band of merry maidens – may we have many years of merriment ahead. Cheers!