So how does it actually work? Well our founding member Lesley (yep, of Lelly Vance fame), hosted our first book club and really set the bar high. We had snacks, we had wine and we had book group questions (carefully curated from a bit of googling around the chosen book).
But it really is as simple as that: we let the host choose the book, have allowed about 4 – 6 weeks between meet-ups to get the reading done and thus far have tried to set the date of the next book club at the previous event (I say thus far, we’ve had one to date and our next one is tonight)!!
Obviously not everyone can make each session, so we keep in touch about titles and dates on a Facebook message. We have kept the group as open as possible, not just for book lovers that know each other, but some of us have brought along friends that the others don’t necessarily know, simply for their love of literature and a good chat.
So it’s a great way to indulge a passion and make new friends. We are fully sold on it.
If you love reading you should most definitely say yes to finding and joining a book club, and if you can’t find one then why not set-up one yourself with your friends.
Which leads us to the matter at hand, our very first book club selection, chosen by Lesley, Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill.
Want to know what we thought of it? Keep reading.
Only Ever Yours was a book that split the group – some liked it, some hated it, but that is why it made such a good choice.
There was so much to discuss, in fact the whole reason that Lesley chose it is because she had just finished reading it and wanted some people that she could talk to about it. We were just the girls for her! Talking about it helped us to see lots of new perspectives that we hadn’t thought about when reading ourselves.
Before we get into what we thought any further, here is what the book is all about…
Only Ever Yours tells the dark tale of two best friends, freida and isabel (their names intentionally not capitalised). They, along with their fellow ‘eves’, inhabit a world where girls are no longer born naturally but instead are bred in schools where the pursuit of wealthy and powerful men is the sole objective.
This means that beauty is their only asset. Not the type of beauty that we are taught to believe in, that comes in all shapes and sizes and is more than skin deep. The horrible plastic kind that aspires to a barbie doll-esque, subordinate existence.
Sound familiar? Many have observed that O’Neill carefully crafts a satire with undertones of some of the dangerous hopes and aspirations that our self-scrutinising, celebrity culture can harbour in teenage girls.
Here’s the blurb to give you an idea of where the story takes us:
At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful.
For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim.
Best friends freida and isabel are sure they’ll be chosen as companions – they are among the most highly rated girls in their year.
But as the intensity of final year takes hold, isabel does the unthinkable and starts to put on weight. ..
And then, into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride.
freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known…
The most contentious point of our discussions was when we discovered that the book was actually aimed at a teenage audience. Although this was apparent in the style of writing, it raised some questions and concerns about whether a teenage audience would pick up on some of the irony littered throughout the story, rather than just taking it literally.
Perhaps if we assume that they wouldn’t, we do that generation a disservice. But it is difficult to tell in parts.
The story becomes even more powerful when you realise that the author herself suffered from an eating disorder when she was younger. The inner most thoughts and insecure feelings of her characters become all the more real, raw and heart wrenching.
But one of the biggest disappointments, felt unanimously by the group (there’s a bit of a spoiler coming) was that we didn’t feel that O’Neill offered up retribution. Things didn’t seem to come good in the end, and so we were left wondering whether a moral to the story was really conveyed.
Either way, it seems that fellow writer Jeanette Winterson, sums up Ever Yours perfectly: “A dark dream. A vivid nightmare. The world O’Neill imagines is frightening because it could come true. She writes with a scalpel.”
O’Neill really does cut close to the bone, and that left us feeling a bit uncomfortable. But she does so cleverly, mockingly, and she makes you stop and think. It highlights the ridiculous extreme of a superficial existence in such a grotesque way, that you are immediately repelled by it.
If this is the affect the book has on the teenage audience it is aimed at, then it is a very powerful thing indeed.
Make this one of your yeses
You can get your hands on a copy of Only Ever Yours, by Louise O’Neill on Amazon here.
We would really encourage you to do so, yes book club is all about picking up something that you wouldn’t normally be drawn to.
Whether you love it or you hate it, we guarantee it will give you food for thought and that is what reading is for of course…. learning!