I read “The Reading Group” by Elizabeth Noble back in April and gave it two stars on Goodreads.
I had high hopes when I picked this up that it would be a book I’d recommend to my own book club. I won’t be doing that. It took me a long time to get through it and despite the five women in the reading group and other assorted characters going through a wide variety of issues, I never managed to connect with any of them.
Let me start with the good:
- the friendships between some of the women were lovely
- there were relationships between mothers and daughters that were great
- there were some tough issues dealt with in realistic, unflinching ways
- not everyone was likable and I’m OK with that
- several twists and turns I didn’t see coming
And then what I didn’t like:
The book is divided into sections around their monthly book meetings, each starting with a synopsis and/or passage from that book. Often the following discussion of the book by the ladies includes spoilers if you haven’t read the book. Boo!
Shifting between each of the ladies (and several other characters) is confusing until you get to know everyone. Well into the book, I was still referring to the character list at the beginning (and so thankful for it!)
There were a lot of British pop culture references that won’t make sense to American readers – the heart of the book still works, but I felt like I was missing something when I skipped over them. I’m not faulting the book for this – just noting that it may be distracting for non-UK readers.
VERY MILD VAGUE SPOILERS THAT DON’T GIVE AWAY PLOT POINTS:
One character is more or less abandoned rather coldly and it made me angry that no one reached out to her. She was introduced into the group and it was obvious she was going through a horrible time. Even though there were reasons that would make it awkward for certain members of the group to reach out, there was nothing keeping other members of the group from checking in on her.
Considering how well the book handled the difficult situations the women were put in (or created for themselves in most circumstances), most of them wrapped up quite conveniently in the end. It seemed rather tidy and I would’ve preferred less of that as it would’ve felt more realistic.
It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t amazing. It certainly didn’t live up to my expectations based on the synopsis and reviews. The cover itself said it was the #1 British Bestseller, “…a real female-bonding novel in the best sense; it’s witty, and immediately engaging.”
For me, it just didn’t do it.
But if you’d like to check it out, “The Reading Group” by Elizabeth Noble is available on Amazon. Maybe you’ll feel different.