#Book Review: The Bordeaux Book Club

Author: Gillian Harvey

There is a reason I love British authors. Their books always instigate positive emotions and have a feel-good sentiment during and after reading. The Bordeaux Book Club is no different.

Book image: Goodreads

This is a story of English expats who live in Bordeaux, France, and form a book club due to language and cultural barriers they face often resulting in finding themselves with no or very few friends. The book club was proposed by Grace, a former teacher who moved to France with her investor husband who originally convinced her to quit her job and make the move, only to regret it soon after. Others who join are Leah, a former journalist who moved to France with her husband Nathan to try to be sustainable and self-sufficient, so they grow their own garden and face issues with a teenage daughter. Alfie was brought to France at the age of 5 by his mother who removed him from a bad influence, and George came to work on his mate’s house and help him decorate. Monica lives there with her pilot husband who is often away, and she looks after their baby daughter Bella. This is a diverse and interesting group, each one with their own stories that readers learn over the course of reading.

There are two elements in The Bordeaux Book Club I find particularly appealing. One is how the book club brought people together and created friendships. Leah thinks to herself how she would have never befriended Grace had they met in England because she finds her a bit too much, too involved, too everything, and yet, through the book club, their bond grows. This was exactly what happened when I first formed a book club in England, during the pandemic and because of one literature review research we did as part of one project where book clubs were mentioned as an effective form of networking. I originally did the book club for research reasons, and we wrote diaries that we are currently analysing for a journal paper but eventually, I carried on with that book club and even did it online now that I am in the US. I lived in England for many years before that book club but did not have friends for the same reason English ex-pats do not have them in France; you come to a new country and form some sort of acquaintances, but meaningful friendships are hard when you are, as you go along, also learning how to live in the country. Obviously, England is not as bad as what this book portrays because I always had work outings and events to attend and hang out, and at work, we hung out too but outside of work, there was not much. Book club changed that and women in that club became more than just colleagues but really dear friends. What is more, and like Leah in this book, I also formed a nice friendship with a woman in the book club who would have not been my natural choice for a friend, and I continue to find that fascinating.

Secondly, I really liked the reading list of focusing on classics and then discussing them, which The Bordeaux Book Club does well. I read all those books before, The Wuthering Heights, Jayne Eyre, etc but it was in high school when I was much younger and without any experience with life in England so now I am thinking I might read these books again. Ultimately, when I first read David Nicholls’ One Day, I read it in Croatia, and then when I started a book club in England, I recommended it as my all-time favourite book. I re-read it then and fell in love with the story again but for a different reason because I realised, after living in England for many years that it was a class story, not just a love story. So, I think I need to read these classics again and see them in a new light. I also absolutely loved that the author has whole chapters of discussions of books. I loved reading different perspectives on the same book and appreciate the amount of research the author did when writing this book (in acknowledgments, she says she engaged with various book clubs).

I loved this book.

Thank you for reading!

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