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  • Writer's pictureCharlie Tyler

Book Club: the dark side

Many of you probably belong to a book club. I do – it’s such a laugh and (pre-Covid) we were meeting about once every six weeks. Here’s our tried and tested formula: chatter, snacks, chatter, drag ourselves off to comfy chairs to eat more snacks and talk about the book, rip book to pieces then move off to the kitchen to eat a home cooked supper. With hosting duties once every five books, it’s a brilliant night. I’m definitely the worst cook and, for some bizarre reason, I always feel compelled to create something which goes with the title – bitter orange soufflé, anyone? But that aside, the only real stress involved is the actual choosing of the book.

It’s amazing how upset you can feel if you’ve picked something you think will be THE BEST BOOK EVER, only to find that your friends wholeheartedly disagree and, even if you didn’t like it, you feel you’ve got to stick up for it and justify its worthiness. To keep emotions low, we choose a book that no one has read before but, even then, if it turns out to be a turkey and you don’t like it either, you can’t help but apologise, like you’ve written it yourself. See where I’m going with this…

Imagine how terrifying it is being a guest at a book club, all of whom have bought and read your novel and are waiting to discuss it with you. One particular event, late Summer, was (thanks to Covid) conducted live and on Zoom. I was hooked up to a microphone, camera focused on me, with the live audience, socially distanced, either side. I wasn’t drinking (see previous post) so there was no Dutch courage to steady the nerves. The group were delightful, funny, polite and courteous; a few difficult questions, but all good. My favourite moment was when one of the Zoom attendees said how much they had enjoyed the clever circle of imagery I’d used and cited specific examples. My blank expression said it all, and I had to confess that I’d done no such thing which prompted the person sitting next to me to mutter under their breath that she’d always suspected this person was too clever for their own good. The loveliness for me, however, being that this reader had got far more out of the novel than I’d intended. I should have nodded and gone along with it – I’d have looked super intelligent.

Then, as I drove home in the car feeling quite pleased about the whole thing, it struck me: a couple of them, at the very least, must have been lying! Out of the dozens of novels I’ve read in my book club we’ve yet to agree on one we’ve all liked. In fact, we go at a book like we’re the audience watching a gladiator get pierced by a trident and the talk gets toxic. But, then I thought about it a bit more – did I really want to be confronted with people telling me they didn’t like what I’d written? Absolutely not! Instead, I arrived home, humbled at the thought these lovely people had given up their evening to listen to me chatter on. After all, if I want to heap negativity upon myself, I can always go and have a scroll through my Goodreads reviews.

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