My book club meets in members’ homes from 7.30 in the evening, and to myself I call it the “Wine and Cheese” group. Last night I was the host. There was indeed wine and cheese  – three cheeses, two wines, as per custom – plus a home-made cake to finish off with. Weighing on my mind was the fact that I only have eight random wine glasses, no cheese knives and a shaming lack of cake forks. Oh, and I forgot the cream for the cake. Our living room is perhaps a little too small for nine people, and I had to fetch cane chairs from other parts of the house. My usual FOE (fear of entertaining) surfaced.

It turned out that on a cold night our small living room was warm with all of us bundled in together and divested of overcoats, puffer jackets, hat and scarves. Cheese and biscuits disappeared with no problems about knives, glasses were refilled despite shortcomings. Conversation flowed as well. As host, it was my job to lead the discussion. Often there are lists of questions, but not for this title. I floundered around a bit, trying to keep us on topic, but without notes I was a bit lost and it all got away from me. Which was fun. More fun, probably, than if I’d dutifully followed someone else’s talking points. Discursiveness ruled.  No violent disagreements, because we all, to various degrees, enjoyed the book (I think I could read Helen Garner’s shopping lists with pleasure). Some of us liked the diary entries best, so on we went, to Garner’s dissection of her failing marriage to Murray Bail in her final diary volume, How To End a Story. The piece about Raimond Gaita and his ruined home at Frogmore had us talking about Romulus My Father, both the book and the movie, and the sight of the local reservoir, Cairn Curran, empty and with young trees growing where the water should be.  The unsentimental tribute to her teacher, Mrs Dunkley sparked a discussion about teachers who made a difference in our lives.  I was drawn to her occasional real tenderness –  the piece about her mother nearly made me cry – while others enjoyed that Garnerish wit, sharpness and bite. I read a few excerpts. We laughed a lot.

After everyone bundled up again and went off into the chilly night full of good cheer and perhaps some intellectual stimulation (plus wine and cheese and cake), I cleared away and resolved to banish that foolish FOE. And to scour the Op Shops until I find cheese knives and cake forks.


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One Response to FOE

  1. Kate C says:

    I hope Helen Garner still has some more books in her! She is one of my very favourite writers.

    Your book group sounds very similar to mine, except that we just read children’s and YA and we compare what we’ve all been reading — no set text. But that doesn’t lend itself to a very disciplined discussion either 🙂

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