Wednesday, March 2, 2011

If you do one new thing this year, join a book club!

I’ve often found strong and convincing arguments against joining a book club, despite harbouring deep down a secret desire to be part of one. I’m too busy, I suck at commitment, I can’t finish a book a month. But if I were to be really honest, the overarching reason why I’ve avoided book clubs is the fear that I would sound stupid.

Well, I bit the bullet this year and joined the book club run by my workplace. I made the leap for two reasons: I was reassured there’s actually be very little discussion of the book; and people at work already know how slow I can be.

The best thing about being part of a book club is that you get to read books that you wouldn’t normally pick up off the shelf. My reading selection is often quite conservative – I find something good and stick to it. After I read Monkey Grip for the first time, I proceeded to read another 6 of Helen Garner’s books... in a row. The second best thing about being in this particular book club is that we force ourselves to leave work at a semi decent time and we go to the local pub.

So the book that was chosen by one of the book club members this month was Doris Lessing’s The Grass is Singing. Definitely not something I would’ve picked up at the book shop if I was on my own. But hey, we’re all about trying new things here and I’m so glad I gave this a go. The story is set in Rhodesia during the war and surrounds Mary and Dick Turner, a white British couple living in a remote farm among black indigenous communities. In the opening pages of the book, we learn that Mary is found dead in their home, and their black cook, a young male, has been arrested for the crime of her murder. Over the course of the novel, we discover who Mary was and how she came to her eventual death. I won’t give much more away except that this is a good choice of book for group discussion, for the reason that the characters, the writing and the ending can polarise people.

I didn’t feel stupid tonight, in fact, I so enjoyed having people to discuss the book with, to vent my frustrations and share what I learnt, to hear different interpretations and opposing views. And yes, as promised, the conversation did eventually stray from the book, which was also nice.


  1. I've always wanted to join a book club too, glad you found the experience so positive and fun! :)

  2. I read "The Grass Is Singing" about 40 years ago when I got back to UK after teaching in Rhodesia in 1970.
    I then read everything else of hers I could lay my hands on. I still work through authors like that!
    I obviously need a book club too.
    Cheers Gillian