Book Club: The Quality Steep Book Club

Differently packaged personalities, all keen to unwrap, share and thoroughly read and inwardly digest good books, many of which we would never have read if the choice was ours alone.

hampshire-book-club-300x225The Quality Steep Book Club is based in a rather scattered village in a beautiful part of east Hampshire near a lively market town and just over an hour by train from London. We count a farmer, an artist, an advertising executive, a nurse, a teacher, a chemist and a management consultant among us.

The most basic things we have in common are sharing a much-loved geographical location (some good Archers-type conversations result) and being parents – I think one of the joys of our group is that our children range in age from 23 down to 4 and, whether your children are among the oldest or the youngest, the dynamic is interesting, supportive and a bit like a large family of aunts, cousins, mothers and (very young!) grandmothers.

Our book club began several years ago when Louise Braithwaite, artist and founder member, decided to gather a group of her friends together into the local pub to discuss a book with a view to forming a Book Club. We did this, all thoroughly enjoyed the experience and decided that we would continue.

Book Club meetings

steep-church-book-club-300x225Our format is simple: we take it in turns to choose a book and host the evening, which includes providing a meal – sausages and mash or something impressively complicated; it doesn’t matter as long as it’s food, glorious food. We try and meet every six weeks or so. Sometimes it’s more often, sometimes less but we try to accommodate everyone’s lives and make it a priority that we can all be there.

We discuss the book as a group, with no fixed format for the discussion but often with the person who chose the book first offering her opinion of it and asking the others for their views.

One person will have taken a different meaning from a passage to the rest of us, and often, of course, we all agree happily on what we thought might happen compared with what actually happened, what a protagonist’s motive was, or that the plot was clever and outcomes expected or unexpected.

I think what we mostly agree on is how beautifully written a book can be and what a wonderful, uplifting thing a beautiful turn of phrase is. The older we get, the more important and valued this becomes; writers who can encapsulate a feeling, a look, a moment, loss, a moment in a relationship, a realisation, a landscape, the feeling a landscape or the weather or a house inspires are hugely appreciated and valued.

Finding and reading those authors for the first time is always such a pleasure, especially when we know that we wouldn’t have read that book or discovered that author if we weren’t in the book club.

And of course we discuss our own lives; our jobs, husbands, children, holidays, pets, problems, gardens, houses and joys. It’s all healthy, happy, helpful stuff. Both the ups and downs of life better shared than not. Just like a good book.

Phyllida Barnes

About Phyllida Barnes

As a child lived in many exotic, politically volatile, slightly dangerous and beautiful countries. As an adult has lived in France, London and South Africa - and returned, aged 30, to Hampshire, which was always the centre of her childhood universe. She trained and qualified as a nurse, has been a receptionist and editorial assistant on a magazine, worked in a nursery school and in the travel industry. Is an active member of her community, has a lodger, runs a bed and breakfast and another small business, loves writing, reading, travel by train or foot, theatre, cinema, her garden and playing her own morbid compositions on the piano when no one is listening. Can never resist a dry martini, Danish TV series, talking to strangers or putting people in touch with each other. Married, 3 mostly grownup children, 1 cat and a few chickens.