Sometimes joy is as simple as finding a film that doesn’t involve violence and murder. In the midst of a world that is suffering pain and loss in every nook and cranny, I found a wonderful documentary film, BOOK CLUB: The Adventure of a Lifetime. It’s about a group of women living in the Washington, D.C. area in 1947. They formed a book club that was still active as of 2009, the year the film was released, making the club sixty-two years old. That’s longer than most marriages last, longer than some people live.
Watching this charming film is like opening a time-capsule. There are early references to WWI and the Great Depression. There is the club’s history through the pre-war years, WWII, the post-war ’50s, Kennedy’s assassination and the ’60s, and on it goes into the last decade.
Book Club travels from the weighty tomes the women read initially to “improve our minds” when their lives were focused largely on homemaking and child-rearing and comes to rest on lighter fare, literary and popular fiction and sometimes nonfiction.
The movie benefits from the strong underpinning of insight born of long life and astute observation.
“No story is the same to us after a lapse of time; or rather we who read it are no longer the same interpreters.” George Elliot
“I’ll go to the library and say, ‘Yeah! That was a good book,’ and I’ll pick it up and read it again, like Wallace Stegner’s ‘Angle of Repose.’ Things like that when you read a second time with a few more years inside you, you have an altogether different appreciation or understanding of what the author is saying.”
We walk with the club members through their lives as single women, to marriage and children, to grandchildren and loss and into the wisdom years. We move through good times and heartening memories and into and out of the kinds of heart-break that are universal.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anaïs Nin
The life-long friendships forged by the book club create a through-line for the film. In life they provided a stability and depth of support that continued to strengthen the women. The only ones no longer attending meetings were those who have passed away.
“Nobody wants to let [the book club] die.”
“I don’t want to stop it because some of the members aren’t too well. We’d still like to meet when we can. We may not be able to follow a schedule but I hope we’ll be able to meet when we can.”
If you’re in the U.S. you can watch Book Club on Hulu. You don’t have to subscribe. I don’t. I was surprised to find something so worthy among Hulu’s often salacious and sensational documentary offerings. You can buy the DVD from Amazon or rent it for streaming. There’s a trailer on Amazon. I don’t do Cable but it might very well be available on-demand there.
“When we came together in that room for a book club meeting, it was ‘well, here we are again.'”
The world needs more book clubs. They are better than wars and conflict. Be the peace and the joy.
© 2015, review, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved