Earlier today, I reviewed an extremely interesting novel about the relationship between Eleanor of Aquitaine and Alais of France called THE QUEEN'S PAWN by Christy English. I thought the author did a good job with presenting the historical information in a new light.
I was so happy when Ms. English agreed to write a guest post for my Book Club Exchange feature. I hope you will find her thoughts about book clubs, and especially those that talk about her book, as interesting as I did.
Is there anything more fun than reading a book and then getting together with intelligent friends to talk about it? That is what I love best about book clubs, as a reader and as an author: a chance to talk to other people about the world I just experienced on the page.
I have been a reader for much longer than I have been a writer. THE QUEEN’S PAWN is my first book, and I am just now getting the opportunity to discuss my novel with book clubs, answering their questions and listening to how the book club members experienced it. But for years, I was a member of a book club of my own.
I loved the moment after we all arrived, when we each had our wine or our cake or whatever food/drink combo the hostess had so kindly set out for us. When pleasantries were behind us, and each one of us brought out the book we’d read, and we started to talk.
There is something truly magical about diving between the pages of a good book. As a reader, every time I open a novel, I hope to be transported, to be carried away to another time and place by the author, and by the characters she writes about. At a book club, we all sit down together and enter that world again. We can talk about the characters as if they are in the room: what about the story inspired us, what we hated, what we loved. The best books bring out strong emotions in me; I loathe the villains with passion, and I embrace the characters I love. Book club shows me that I am not alone. Other people love these characters, too.
As a writer, I have had similar experiences when speaking with people about the novel I’ve written. Sometimes people don’t understand what I am trying to do, and that is fine, because I realize that I will not be able to reach everyone with my work. But more often, people embrace my characters. They become transported by the world I have created, and love Eleanor and Henry, Richard and Alais, as much as I do. When that happens, we end up talking about these people, not as if they died 850 years ago, but as if they just walked out of the room, as if they are people that we know and love now, today.
That is the beauty of a book club: being able to share the experience of a story with like-minded people. Each of us reads alone, but coming together in a group reminds us that there are some things that novels do for all of us. They make us learn and grow, and sometimes we even laugh at the same things our friends laughed at in a book. And some points in the book we’ve read made us all cry. I love that most about book clubs I think, both as a reader and as an author: the moment of a shared experience, when we realize that just as we recognize bits of ourselves in the characters on the page, we also recognize bits of ourselves in the people around us. When we read a book, and then share it with our friends, we realize that we are not alone. That’s what good books are for, to bridge the gaps between us.
To invite Christy English to join your book club for discussion of THE QUEEN’S PAWN, please leave a comment at her website http://www.ChristyEnglish.com.
Christy English is a writer of historical fiction centering on Eleanor of Aquitaine, Alais of France, and the Plantagenets of the 12th Century. Look for her novel THE QUEEN’S PAWN from the New American Library, an imprint of Penguin.
Her second novel, about Eleanor of Aquitaine’s marriage to Louis VII of France, TO BE QUEEN, will be published by the New American Library in April 2011.
A huge thanks to Ms. English for sharing some of her book club experiences with us. If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.