Last night, I went to my first ever bookclub. I’d had it lined up in my diary for a while, I’d been into the hosting bookshop and purchased the novel, and I’d read it in preparation for the meeting. I was diligent. I was ready.
I was not ready…
I had Mr T drop me off and I tentatively knocked on the locked door. I was five minutes early and there were three women waiting, including the host, in silence.
She introduced herself, and the rest of us exchanged a variety of awkward nods.
Wooden rickety chairs were produced and laid out in the tiny 10 foot by 5 space allocated to us. I sat down. The chair groaned ominously. I shifted. It groaned some more. I wanted to move but was panicked by the thought that my neighbour would think me rude. We sat in silence some more. Some pigeons were having raucous sex just outside. I almost envied them.
One by one, another awkward middle-aged woman rocked up (it’s not judgmental when it’s true, ok?). I decided to break my own unease by texting Mr T. It went something like this…
Me: There are just weird middle-aged women here right now. Oh, and a man has just arrived. Awkward silence. Our knees are touching. Lovely.
Me: No one seems to know anyone.
Me: Some random pigeon chat.
Me: Are you there?
Mr T: You could lead that gang.
Me: The Pied Piper of weirdos…
Finally our host deemed it appropriate to start the meeting; by now we were seven. Around the circle we introduced ourselves. One woman’s accent was so plummy I failed to decipher her name, besides, I was too busy worrying that I’d finished the book a few weeks ago and I couldn’t remember any of the characters’ names. I had some vague notion of the plot.
One brave soul spoke up and struggled over the Icelandic names. We laughed in sympathy, and agreed it wasn’t terribly important to the plot to know exactly how to pronounce them. One woman pointed out the pronunciation guide at the start of the book, and suggested that if the author hadn’t wanted us to correctly pronounce the names, she wouldn’t have included it. We fell back into silence.
The host twisted the sleeves of her jumper and tucked her hands up into its fabric.
Our solitary male made the point that the book seemed to have Austen qualities. It was a Scandi-noir historical crime. We all mocked him with our eyes.
Suddenly, a knock on the door. A younger, more-handsome, dynamic man appeared. He took the only free seat remaining, next to me. Our knees were very squashed. He beamed around at us, and immediately mispronounced all the names. I loved him for that.
The pigeons had more sex.
We spoke about the execution scene and the curious incident of commissioning a specific axe for the deed. Silence filled the room. I decided now was the appropriate time to share the historical snippet that Countess Salisbury, who was beheaded by Henry VIII (not personally), had an executioner so bumbling that the first blow was to her shoulder, and it took ten more to off her. Some even claim the executioner had to take a knife and saw off the grisly remains. This went down well. I sat back, confident in my input.
It was decided we’d discussed the book enough. Was this my fault?
On to next month’s choice. Our host held up the book, and several regulars groaned (yes, it turns out that some of these people did know each other already. Perhaps they enjoyed the face-peeling silence?). An Irish book was on the cards. Apparently that foreboded misery and shame. When happy chap pointed out that this month’s choice hadn’t exactly been a barrel of laughs, he was told that at least it wasn’t a Catholic guilt-fest.
Notices were now in order. One woman had a friend, who would be taking photographic portraits for charity. Some one asked if he photographed dogs. She wasn’t sure. Another woman, until now mute, exclaimed over the outrageous prices of getting her dogs’ nails clipped and its fur cut. Apparently it cost her twice as much to have her pets groomed as it did to get her own hair cut! The chap with erroneous Austen theories suggested she go to the same place as her dog.
And that was my cue to leave…