A few weeks ago it was my turn to host a meeting of the Book Club of which I am a member.
The book I chose was Girls, Reading by Katie Ward. The book is a novel that reads like a collection of short stories, each inspired by a different work of art depicting a girl or woman reading. The first story is set in Medieval Italy, the last in the not so distant future. Some of the stories have minor connections to previous chapters, and the final chapter helps to tie it all together. There are issues you might think of in a book about women- independence, sexuality, love, motherhood- as well some larger themes having to do with the experience and definition of art.
I know some people were put off by the short story aspect of this book, but I knew in advance what to expect, and enjoyed the different chapters- trying to find the connections to previous chapters. The final chapter, with its examination of the intersection of art and technology, as well as the emotional aspects of being a working mother, was possibly my favorite story.
There was a lot in there, and it was a good pick for a group of mothers- not everyone could finish the book, but because of the structure, they could participate in discussion of the stories they had read (and some skipped to the end and read the last chapter when they were running out of time and knew they couldn’t finish the entire book).
The menu I chose was inspired by the settings and foods mentioned in the book- Italy, England, Japan, The Netherlands.
I served ‘sushi’- veggie rolls and California rolls, inspired by the last story in which a Japanese family goes out to a sushi restaurant, with the mother attending ‘virtually’ because she’s traveling for work. There were mini-quiche, inspired by the omelets made by the Gwen character in another story. Some Dutch Gouda from The Netherlands, where a chapter about a deaf maidservant is set. Some dates and olives as well as tomatoes and mozzarella cheese with balsamic vinegar, for Medieval Italy- the olives, in particular, featured prominently in the first story. Also, some merengue cookies just because they looked yummy. I also put out some typical pub food (popcorn, nuts, wasabi peas) inspired by the British pub in the second to last story. There was also wine (imbibed in several of the stories), and hot tea (because, hello, England) as beverages.
On Katie Ward’s webpage, there are links to images of the works of art that inspired her stories. I put together a little slideshow of the works, and played it on a loop on the television, so we could all see them (not everyone had looked them up as they were reading) and discuss. It was very helpful to see the artwork as we talked.
At the end of the night, before everyone departed, we gathered with our books, and I had my husband take a few photos of us girls, reading.
As usual, it was a lovely evening with lots of chatting, both about the book and about other things.