The Reading Group

Saturday 14 June 2014 by

The Reading Group, Elizabeth Noble, Penguin, BookI picked this book at random from a charity shop and just happened to be reading it when I heard about House of Blog’s Summer Reads. A book about a reading group seemed just about perfect to fit in with the theme so thought my review would fit perfectly over here and thankfully our esteemed landlady agreed!

Before I get started on my opinions of The Reading Group I’ll first say I’m not usually a chick lit reader nor have I read anything by Elizabeth Noble before. Therefore, I came to The Reading Group will no preconceptions. Here’s the publisher’s summary:

Five women meet for their first reading group, little realising this social gathering over books and glasses of wine might see them share more than literary debate … and will, in fact, take each of them to places they’d never imagined.

Harriet and Nicole are the ringleaders, best friends who can’t quite admit – to themselves or one other – they might be trapped in loveless marriages. While Polly, a determined single mum, finds herself tipped off course by an unexpected proposal. Susan, usually so carefree and happy, is forced to face a shattering reality and Clare, quiet and mysterious, plainly has more on her mind than next week’s book choice.

Over the coming year their worlds will intertwine in delightful, unexpected and surprising ways. Stories will be re-written as dreams are made and broken, but through it all they’ll have the Reading Group, with friendship, tears and laughter featuring in every chapter of their lives.

I think I had foolishly high hopes that more of this novel may focus on the books the group were reading and whilst each chapter started with a little excerpt from each book. After this there was limited discussion but in reality this book couldn’t be less about The Reading Group. The group is a device so we can meet the characters and learn about the relationships in their lives, in classic chick lit style.

As the novel progresses this book becomes about women and their relationships, be it with each other, their family or their husbands and partners. The novel looks at motherhood in several ways with one character approaching grandmother-hood as another faces the prospect of losing her own. Another character seems to have forgotten what being a mother (and wife) means until it all comes to ahead and whilst one character faces the reality that she’ll never be a mother another chooses not to become one (again) of her own accord.

I realise this is all horribly cryptic but I don’t want to add in any spoilers. A mass of relationships and real life possibilities are pulled together and though most of the plot is believable I found myself wishing the characters were more so. The most unbelievable characters to me were Polly’s daughter and Harriet, I just can’t believe their decisions and the choices they make but that’s just my opinion of course.

The Reading Group is pretty weight for a chick lit novel but it does what it says on the tin. You’re treated to a tangled web of women’s issues and some characters who, though not fully formed, you end up really rooting for.

You can follow Beth on Twitter: @plasticrosaries

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