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LitClub: Ladies of the Book Club
North London, England
THE LOVE OF CHALLENGE. They like the stretch—reading books they might not otherwise read—and a good debate with opposing views. And what they've come to learn over the years has been to listen to one another with respect and affection. They are the Ladies of the Book Club.
|How long have you been together?
For over 10 years. We started out as mothers with young children who were attending one particular school. But over the years, we've diversified. The group now encompasses a wider geographical area, with children at different schools, and some even off at universities.
And how many members?
Currently eight, although it fluctuates. Eight is a good number for conversation and to be able to listen and respond to varying viewpoints.
Let's talk about some of the books you've been reading.
Our most recent include...
♦ The House of Hidden Mothers
♦ Everything I Never Told You
♦ All the Light We Cannot See
Any favorites over the years?
Most of the time the eight of us can't agree, so we rarely have group favourites, only personal ones.
Still, we all loved To Kill a Mockingbird—for all the reasons everyone else adores it: strong story telling, interesting moral dilemma, and the story through the eyes of a child.
We also agreed on I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It's beautifully written and heartwarming.
For most of the group (all except one) Mrs. Dalloway was a let down. J.B. Priestley's 1929 novel The Good Companions again divided the group, as did a more current book, Shattered Lives: Children Who Live with Courage and Dignity (far too harrowing for many of us).
How do you choose your books?
We take turns choosing and buying the books for the group, and whoever chooses the book
|leads the discussion. The only rule in choosing a book is that it must not be one that we have read already.
Speaking of rules...do you have any?
We drew up a book club constitution which proves useful when discussions become heated or when someone dominates or wants to hold forth.
We start with social chat and food for the first half hour. Then we begin our discussion—after which each person is asked to offer a one-sentence comment and to give the book a mark, 1 to 10. One member keeps track of comments and scores. (Because we all have our own criteria, the scores are really only valuable to each of us individually.)
What impression would you like to leave us with?
We may be eight women of similar age, but we have housewives with various past professional lives—a midwife, nurse, and strategy & design consultant—and those with current professional lives—a lawyer, head of student services for a university, dento-legal adviser, and forensic psychologist.
Some of us were born inside the UK and some born outside. We are married and divorced. We have widely differing views on politics and on the style of books we prefer.
Yet despite those differences, we have some special traits in common—
♦ We share a love of reading
♦ We stretch ourselves to read books we wouldn’t ordinarily choose for ourselves.
♦ We love to be challenged by interesting debates on a range of topics—but we have learned to try to listen to opposing views without demolishing the other person.
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