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Sunday, November 30, 2008

THE READING GROUP--A NOVEL FOR READERS

Finally got to a book given to me as a birthday present in 2007. Glad that I did. Old anglophile that I am, this #1 British bestselling book sparked an appreciation for a departure from the ordinary. The book is The Reading Group. The author is Elizabeth Noble, and gentlemen, it is almost definitely not a book for you. Glamour (UK) writes, "This is a real female-bonding novel in the very best sense; it's witty and immediately engaging." I heartily concur.

I am immediately intrigued by the novel's unusual structure. The reading group meets once a month; the time span of the novel is one year. Each chapter introduces the book selection of the month. Each month a different woman makes the selection. The book becomes a reflection of each member’s personality but also speaks to the other women in some profound way, reflecting aspects of their own lives. Their personal stories are also revealed--their loves, heartbreaks, successes, disappointments, and growth. The women's personal stories evolve as the year progresses and often impact on their reactions to the book selection. They learn, through the books and their sensitive interaction with each other, how to cope with the intricacies of life's relationships. In the course of the year, each woman grows not only as an individual but also as a compassionate and understanding friend. See, it IS a woman’s book.

On one lovely level, The Reading Group demonstrates what we readers know--that there is something powerful and special about reading between the lines--in books AND in life. Personal growth can come from both. Immediately the relationship with reading brings a feel-good moment to me!

On another lovely level, I know how important my friends are to me. Friendship among women is very different from friendship among men. The Reading Group applauds the importance of these special relationships, and that puts it up with The Divine Secret of the Ya Ya Sisterhood.

I did have a bit of trouble for a while as I was introduced to the many characters in this book. The plot encompasses the group's members, their husbands and significant others, their children (and their problems), and some significant outsiders. Not quite a cast of thousands, but definitely enough characters to have me checking back to the character listing at the beginning of the book. Ms. Noble must have had a premonition.

Don't be put off if it takes you a bit of time to get into this book. The many characters and the fact that each member of the group has a different life challenge--hence a slew of subplots to suck you in—doesn’t allow the book to flow as I might have liked. But once you've been bitten, you will want to find out how each problem is resolved. And I think you will be satisfied.

The Reading Group is a good one to take along on a trip. Oh, and if you're an Anglophile, you'll love these women and their language, their slang, their references, and their interests. At the same time they are universal, they are also oh so British. Enjoy.

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