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The Reading Group: A Novel Paperback – January 4, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Perfect indulgence for the eponymous set—or pandering to an anticipated audience? Or maybe both? As the London Evening Standard put it, "The blurb has [the author] down as a simple Surrey housewife who knocked this out between the Hoovering and the hot sex, but further investigation reveals her to be a veteran of book marketing married to the head of Time Warner UK." Go figure! Well, either way, this U.K. bestseller is a frothy page-turner that dissects the relationships, desires and discoveries of five English women, all members of a book club. Over the course of a year, the women read 12 novels (including Atonement, Rebecca and The Alchemist) and, through their playful but intimate discussions (few of which revolve around the books), they bond closely while coping with such matters as a philandering husband, a mother with dementia, a pregnant but unmarried daughter, an infertility crisis, a wedding and a funeral. It's a testament to Noble's characterizations and plotting that the novel is not overwhelming, despite its numerous (perhaps too many) points of view, complicated backstories and interweaving contemporary crises. Light but never flip, this is funny, contemplative and touching reading, and the group's familiar book choices allow readers to feel as if they're part of the gang, too, as they race to the end, eager to find out what happens, why it does and what it all means.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Women's reading groups form, dissolve, reform. Some have the lives of mayflies, while others boast many years' existence. Nicole and Harriet, with lives and husbands that are very different (Nicole's is a womanizer), are cofounders of their group, which includes single-mom Polly, Polly's pal Susan, and Clare, a midwife. These Englishwomen come together for literary discussions but, as bonds form over the years, stay for friendship. Once-bitten Polly is still ambivalent about Jack's marriage proposal, despite Susan's reminder that, at 15 years, it has endured three times longer than Polly's erstwhile marriage. Though married to rock-solid Roger, Susan has her hands full because her mom seems to be suffering memory lapses. And certainly Harriet loves her husband, Tim, but now the love of her life, Charles, is marrying another. Meanwhile, infertile Clare bathes and rocks newborns, only to have their rightful mothers claim them. Noble keeps engagement high as her characters connect and interconnect. Since the Briticisms are usually decipherable in context, this entertaining read is very accessible for Americans. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 429 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (January 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060760443
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060760441
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,035,798 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Elizabeth Noble is the internationally bestselling author of The Reading Group, The Friendship Test, Alphabet Weekends, and Things I Want My Daughters to Know. She lives in New York City with her husband and their two daughters.

Customer Reviews

I also found the book hard to read, as I just didn't care one way or another what happened to the characters.
Laura Niemann
If you are a member of a reading group, I would highly suggest you read this book and then try to read each one of the twelve books listed.
There were also some great plot twists that created some interesting intersections between the lives of some of these characters.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Maudeen Wachsmith VINE VOICE on January 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
I adored this book! Any booklover should. I loved how

each book was discussed (pro and con)and how they were able to relate the books read to their life experiences and the things that were going on in their lives right at the time.

For instance with the last book, GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING at the book discussion one of the characters says "I wish they would put what the book was about on the back. It's really off-putting when it's just quotes. You want to know what the story is about, not whether it's won loads of prizes or critical acclaim. That just makes it pretentious, doesn't it? This is a classic example of a book I would never have picked up if it hadn't been for the reading group." (something I agree with as a reader).

I should have marked all the passages in the book that had me nodding in agreement, the aforementioned was just one of them. The fact that not all the members had a chance to read each book was really great as well - just like my own f2f book and many online books.

Although the character of Clare wasn't as clearly fleshed out as the others, I found myself feeling that I knew each of these women. The book is told not only from the POV of the reading groups members, but others in their lives as well. There are some real surprises here and everything isn't as what it seems originally. Dealing with such domestic issues as infertility, teenage pregnancy, caring for an elderly parent, adult sibling issues, adultery, boredom, caring for young children, the women in the book deal with many of the same things we do everyday.

This is the best women's friendship book I have ever

read and I have read (and enjoyed) many.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By prisrob TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
This novel is the English version of an Oprah's Book Club. It takes place in small community outside of London. However, this group of women needed a place and reason to meet, drink wine and talk. What better idea than to talk about a book they have all read? That's how it started, and it all evolved into a look into each of their lives. Everyone thinks the grass looks greener on the other side, well, no, it isn't, we learn.

Five women, four of them friends and one pushed into the book group by her mother:

Harriet, co-founder of the group- thirty something with a husband who adores her and two children who adore her.

Nicole- friend of Harriet and co-founder of the group. Her husband is a problem but her three children are not.

Polly- a single mother who wants the best for her college age daughter.

Susan- Polly's best friend and all around great person. Married to a physician and mother to two grown boys.

Clare- the women who was pushed into this group by her mother. She is a midwife, unable to have children of her own and she and her husband are at a crossroads.

Into this book group, come 12 books, one for each month. Books, they talk about, love or hate and then they relate to the book in some fashion. And, then they discuss their individual lives. Many problems abound, as you can imagine. The book is slow to get into, but after awhile you enjoy hearing about how their lives are progressing or not as the case may be. The stories are funny, sad and honestly stated. But, some are overstate and surreal. How could this happen to this smart woman, well, you know, you love a man and then you don't always see what is under your nose.

I found myself rooting for several of these women and feeling sorry for some. True life, maybe not, but a fun read. Recommended. prisrob
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Rieback on October 31, 2004
Format: Paperback
When these five women get together to form a reading group, little do they realize that they will experience more changes and turmoil in their lives than those of the characters in the books they discuss: infidelity and divorce; infertility, abortion, and pregnancy out of wedlock; forging of new loves and rekindling of older ones; even a revelation about one's roots. Through it all, these women forge strong bonds of friendship that support them through the rough times and help them celebrate their successes.

The novel is divided into twelve sections, one for each month that the reading group meets. At the start of each section is a summary of the book the group will discuss. Very little of the story actually takes place at the group's meetings, however. Nor does it draw many parallels between the titles read by the group and the lives of the women in the group. The one warning I have to give about this novel is that it divulges spoilers about the endings of the reading group's books. So although you could use this novel for suggestions for your own reading group or list, it might spoil the fun of discovering the stories for yourself.

In spite of that shortcoming, this is a great book for women about women that's sometimes funny, sometimes touching, and always entertaining.

Eileen Rieback
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Busy Mom VINE VOICE on February 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
It's about time there is a book about ordinary women who meet together once a month to talk about books only to bond through life's ordinary travesties! Sure the book starts out with a group of women meeting together to discuss a book or two ~~ but this novel is more of women and their relationships with one another among the ordinary backdrop of life itself in an ordinary English town. This time, it's women that you and I can relate to ~~ it's about your mother, sister, best friend, your daughter and you ~~ all the women you know and love in your life all wrapped in this book. You know the characters because you live their lives.

These women, Clare, Susan, Polly, Nicole and Harriet meet once a month to discuss that month's book. Through their conversations with one another and separately, you begin to gleam their characteristics. Nicole and Harriet are best friends who pull no punches when it comes to the hard issues of life (like betrayal/infidelity, babies and so on). Susan and Polly have the older children ~~ they met through their children. Susan is also taking care of an elderly mother. Clare struggles with her own problems of being unable to have children. These women bonded together over books at first then over each other's dilemmas. Reading these books for their bookclub gave each woman an opportunity to open up and be rewarded with friendships that is life-enriching and meaningful. It's like reading gives you an opportunity to open up to other rewards that is being offered to you by other readers. It is a gift that keeps on giving.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable read. Once my mom reads this book, I plan to get my bookclub to read it. I have not read most of the books listed in there ~~ but that's ok. I will now!
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