| May 21, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - May 21, 2009 10-year-old book club still going strongby Julie Druker

Back, Linda Brown, Elaine Smith, Darlene Nicol, Brenda Cioci; Front: Bev Ryan, Jennifer Bennett, Glenda Turner and Carolyn Brown (members Nancy Darling and Ilene Hanson were unable to attend)

For the past 10 years a group of 10 women from Kingston, Verona, Hartington and surrounds have been meeting in each other’s homes to discuss one of their favorite loves: books.

Elaine Smith, a former minister of Trinity United Church in Verona and St. Paul’s Church in Harrowsmith, originally got the group together for coffee and chats and the idea of a book club came about. Other friends were invited to join and the rest is history.

The hostess for the month chooses the book to be read, usually one that she is personally interested in or has heard about.

In the past the club members have limited themselves to only Canadian authors and novels but more recently they have included non-fiction and foreign books as well.

May’s meeting was held at the home of Jennifer Bennett, the one member who also happens to be the author of a number of gardening books herself and who lives near Verona. She is one of the later joiners to the club, which is made up of women of various ages and from many different walks of life.

Bennett chose the book “Journeyman”, a collection of travel pieces written by Timothy Findley, and annotated by his long time and surviving life partner, Bill Whitehead.

Bennett chose the book for a number of reasons, one of which was that she had used a quote of his in one of her books titled “Our Gardens Ourselves”. Bennett recalled, “He (Findley) was the only author of many that I quoted who sent me back a personal card wishing me good luck with my book.“

Findley, who passed away in 2002 from complications due to hip surgery, wrote many Canadian classics such as The Wars and Not Wanted on the Voyage, and was also a two-time winner of the Governor General’s award for fiction.

Bennett chose Findley, or Tiff, as some club members fondly refer to him, as a long-time fan of his work.

The club is quite informal; it has no leader and follows no specific agenda. Members arrived with pieces of paper scribbled with notes about some of their favorite bits from the book and ideas that have grabbed them.

Their conversation covered a lot of ground and tended to flow and grow organically from topic to topic. The ladies spoke about Findley’s focus on memory and how it relates to survival, his friendship with Margaret Atwood, his battles with alcohol and depression, his difficult years as a writer, his fear of flying, his homosexuality and his long relationship with his partner, Bill. Also discussed were the funny and scary incidents that occurred throughout his life and on his travels.

The discussion traveled to Stratford, Ontario, where Findley worked as an actor and lived, and one member suggested taking a group trip to see a play or two there.

This is a tightly knit group of women who enjoy each other’s company as much as the books that they read. Unfortunately this club is out of reach for other readers and book lovers out there; they have limited membership to 10 in an effort to keep the group small and manageable.

Member Linda Brown graciously informed me that she would be happy to share ideas and suggest tips to any readers who are thinking of starting up their own club. She can be reached at 613-374-9990. 

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