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The Reading Group

March 16, 2009

The Reading Group: A Novel (P.S.)The Reading Group by British author Elizabeth Noble is about five women of various ages, brought together monthly for a book club meeting and their daily struggles through all sorts of issues and problems. Quoted as a “female-bonding” novel by Glamour (UK), I’ve had The Reading Group sitting on my bookshelf for months, waiting to be read.

The Reading Group, as it turns out, isn’t really about the reading group at all. The back stories of these characters is the real plotlineof the novel. Whether Nicole will ever leave her cheating husband, or if Harriet will find happiness at home, or if Susan will get over the guilt of putting her elderly mother in a nursing home are a few of the issues this novel tackles. Their book club is really just a clever way to connect all of these women, in the span of one year, who are all going through some sort of transition in their lives.

Nicole and Harriet were in Harriet’s kitchen. Harriet was slicing the two quiches Nicole had brought; Nicole was making a salad dressing, whisking vinegar, whole-grain mustard and sugar into olive oil in a jug. The other women were next door, and their lively chatter filtered through the open doors. Everyone had loved this month’s book, and there had been no awkward pauses. Spines were well-broken, yellow Post-it notes and folded down corners had marked favorite passages and the characters had come alive in their discussion. Now it was time to eat.

I have to say that the first forty pages were a struggle for me. It didn’t have to do with the story, which I found interesting, but the actual number of story-lines and characters being introduced all at once. Luckily, the author included a handy character guide at the very beginning of the novel, which included each of the five main characters names and a little about their families. After flipping to this intro numerous times, I finally got a grasp of the characters. All thoroughly likable and dealing with real life modern day problems, The Reading Group is an good book, but suffered from one fatal flaw – too many things going on at once. I think the book would have been more successful had Noble focused on two or three of the women in the club, but five was just too much. The Reading Group had the potential of being a great read, but was just too jam packed.

Things I Want My Daughters to Know: A NovelOnce, when talking to an author on the phone during my own book club meeting, someone asked her “why did you decide to tackle so many issues in one book?” The author responded jokingly “I wasn’t sure if this would be the only book I’d ever get published, so why not!”  As it turns out, she’s written a few other successful books since then, as has Noble. I’m curious to read Noble’s newest book, Things I Want My Daughter to Know , which has received some good reviews around the blogsphere (including this one by Lesley). Will I enjoy it more than The Reading Group? Lucky for me I won’t have to wait too long to find out, since the lovely Dawn over at She is Too Fond of Books has offered to mail me her copy of the book once she is finished reviewing it. Thanks so much Dawn!

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2009 6:39 pm

    I won The Reading Group from Book Club Girl a long time ago and it has been sitting on my shelf ever since. I just read Things I Want My Daughter to Know and I did enjoy that one, although I question the need for a part 1, as the book is split into three parts. I can’t wait for your review so we can compare.

  2. March 16, 2009 8:04 pm

    i love the idea of a book club…but i can’t seem to find one that i mesh well with.

    as for your review, i don’t relish books that have too many characters or too much plotline–that makes me dizzy! i’m looking forward to ‘things i want my daughters to know’.

  3. March 16, 2009 11:12 pm

    I tried to read this book and gave up after 50 pages or so, for the exact reasons you state here. Too much going on, too many characters to keep straight! I have Things I Want My Daughters to Know sitting here on my desk and hope to get to it soon.. hopefully it won’t suffer from the same issues as The Reading Group!

  4. March 17, 2009 5:57 pm

    I liked ths book and am curious about Things I Want My Daughters to Know as well!

  5. March 18, 2009 12:11 pm

    This is right here, in the present, not the future.

  6. March 18, 2009 1:29 pm

    I remember feeling the same way about the multiple character stories, as you did. Sometimes, less is more! 🙂

    I hope you enjoy Things I Want My Daughters to Know. I still want to read Alphabet Weekends and The Friendship Test. I’ll have to remember to snag these two books from the library in a few more months. Noble’s books are nice fluffy reads that are perfect for the busy days of summer.

    Thanks for the mention of my review!

  7. March 18, 2009 5:21 pm

    I had the same reaction as you and the other Lisa. I gave up on it without finishing.

  8. March 23, 2009 4:46 am

    When I was running my “real life” book club here in Oki, we read THE READING GROUP and I really loved it. Funny thing is that after reading your review, I can’t quite remember anything specific about the book. I do know that when I was reading it, I really did love it so maybe that is what matters, more so than remembering every book years later.

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