My Review of "The Rejected Writers' Book Club"
Well it was the book cover that did it for me this time! I love the picture, font and colours! And of course, it's hard to resist anything with "Book Club" in the title!
This is about a group of women in the small town of Southlea Bay who form their own club. At first it's purpose is to share and support each other with the writing of their manuscripts and then it becomes a place to commiserate together over their rejection letters from the publishers - of which they have 475! Letters which all point out the publishers are looking for manuscripts with "plot, interesting characters, dialogue, a main character and a point" and none the ladies work actually meets this criteria and so yet again, they are rejected! They begin their meetings with an opening chant of "Selected for rejection, we reach for true connection, choosing a path of celebration as we bond with true affection." And that's exactly what this charming story is. A group of women who bond together over their adversities and develop a deeper affiliation with each other.
Janet, a librarian in her late forties, has recently moved to Southlea from Washington with her husband of 25 years after their only daughter has left home and they fancy living in a rural idyll. Janet is an immediately likeable narrator whose candid observations about life in the countryside and marriage will have you smiling with recognition and sympathy. Her marriage is a happy and typical one; I liked her honest and frank talking. For example she comments that "men have an unwavering conviction to lull you into believing they always know exactly what they're talking about ....takes about 6 months of marriage to figure out you've been fooled." Her remarks are authentic rather than the usual cliche of acidic judgements; the couple tease each other in a very relaxed manner enjoying their game of "verbal tennis" which is "the only exercise we get."
However, Janet is "completely stumped" as she "tries to navigate her way" through the "curious intrigues of a small town life". She wants to make friends and feel fully part of the community -well, most of the time anyway! One day she finds herself in a position where she is unable to refuse the formidable Doris who insists on her attendance to a secret meeting with the members of the very select "Rejected Writers' Book Club" . Before she knows what has happened, Janet is fully ensconced in a road trip to San Francisco to take a publisher to task over the latest letter the group have received - Doris's manuscript has been accepted!
Janet imagines a kind of "Thelma and Louise" scenario, but with "Doris the Rottweiller, Ethel dressed as an alien, a bejangled hippie ready to chain herself to a corporate toilet and a shrinking violet dressed as a femme fatale" it's clear this is not going to be quite the journey she had in mind! That and the fact that the car is overladen with tupperware dishes of frozen meals and it takes them four hours to cross the town as they depart due to various "comfort stops." But Doris is absolutely on a mission to stop her manuscript being published for reasons she is particularly guarded about, so off the women go and so beginnings the humorous, often slapstick adventure of "the brave ladies from an island who brought pie." Their journey includes entertaining entanglements with handsome strangers, first love, false labour and haunted houses. Every encounter adds another story to their eclectic collection and encourages further revelations in their quest to unearth Doris's deep secret about her manuscript. By the end of the book the women indeed have "bonded with true affection" and Janet finds herself deeply fond of these madcap women.
Kelman writes in the acknowledgements that she hopes every reader finds a "community of loving, caring souls with just enough small town mentality to be wonderful and infuriating all at the same time." I think this is an excellent summary of the novel itself. Kelman has created exactly this through the pages of her effortless writing. It is a book of warmth and affection. It is a book about friendship and communities. It is not judgemental, and although the characters are exaggerated, they are not made fun of or written about in a derisory manner in any way. This would make a very watchable Sunday evening TV series and it's no surprise to find out that the author is in fact a screen writer too. That is evident from the fluency, description and dialogue. I could imagine Celia Imrie and Julie Walters lapping up this script and playing the vivid characters with flair and conviction.
This is a good read for people who want something light and entertaining. If you are fans of Adriana Trigiani's "Big Stone Gap" or Graeme Simsion's "Rosie Project" novels, or the TV series "Home Fires" and "Jam and Jerusalem" then I think this book will appeal to you.
Thank you to NetGalley for the advanced copy of this book in return for an honest review.
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