Guest Post: Photographer Alex Bell

As a part of the Words Over Walthamstow Festival, Significant Seams is exhibiting the work of local photographer Alex Bell. Her show, My Favourite Book, will be on display until November 14.

If you're feeling inspired by Alex's photos, or are looking for a book club of your own, please come along and join us tonight at 7 for our Magical, Fantastical Literary Soirée and Book Club launch!

‘My Favourite Book’ is a series of portraits of the women in my book club
reading their favourite books–where possible in their favourite place to
read, but more realistically in the place they most often get the
opportunity to escape from their busy lives into a book. These ladies mean
an awful lot to me–very much more than I thought a book club might and
here’s why…

Apart from all being mums aged over 30 living in or near Walthamstow (with
the exception of two sisters), we have relatively little in common. We
come from a variety of backgrounds and places and we all do very different
things with our lives. But we've all opened our hearts, shared our hopes,
fears and post-natal ailments, complained, cried, and laughed together.

The books we read (nearly always fiction and nearly always worthy) and our
subsequent critiques and opinions come an easy second to the friendships
and support network we've grown. We meet every fourth Wednesday at 8pm and
rarely do we even think about discussing the book until we're politely
reminded to by one of the more conscientious among us… usually at around
9.30pm (I think she sets an alarm). Until then and usually again quite
quickly after, we're engrossed in catching up with each other's lives and
sharing wine and good food (particularly cheese).

Sometimes, if the book is unremarkable, we have little to say about it
other than whether or not we liked it. And move on. Some of the worst
books we have read have sparked the most interesting and lengthy
discussions. We've had books that have created tensions, emotional
responses–positive and negative, a group clearly divided by split
opinion… or alternatively much snorting, squealing, and cackling (we aim
to read something ‘light’ (read 'titillating / raunchy') each August.

A few members have come and gone (one has moved to Australia but still
reads the books and comments). We're a 'closed' group due to the intimate
nature of our book club. Occasionally someone will think of a friend who
might fit right in and we invite them along. Sometimes they stay, sometimes
not. We're not a clique, but we do all value this amazing network of
support, consideration, familiarity and, yes I'm going to say it,
'sisterhood' that has grown over the last seven years and we don't want it to
change… too much.

We have tough times ahead, one of our members has terminal cancer and I
hope that we can provide her with a big warm blanket of love and friendship
while we distract her as best we can, in the best possibly way… wine,
cheese, chocolate, a good book, and unconditional friendship.

I'm sure this isn't a typical book club, but I wonder what is. I’ve been
in others and they’re nothing like this. A book club can be whatever you
want it to be. In fact it'll probably become whatever it wants to be,
shaped by the personalities and needs of those in it. I do doubt that you
could repeatedly and honestly consider works of fiction together without
sharing emotional responses and through that, shared confidence and
friendship.

I hope your book club becomes as treasured as ours and carries you through
the best and worst of times.

On a practical note, if you have a book club or are thinking of starting
one, I highly recommend www.LitLovers.com for
reading guides, reviews, and a helpful and informative blog.

Alex Bell is a local photographer whose 'My Favourite Book' was first exhibited as part of the E17 Art Trail 2012 and remained on display in Waterstones, Walthamstow for the following 6 months. It is now on display at Seams Significant, Wood Street as part of Words over Waltham Forest.

One Comment

  1. Jill

    Hello Alex,
    What a gorgeous project with the photos of your book club members! I LOVE the sentiment behind it and what each of the photos signify. Brilliant idea and beautifully done. They are so lucky to have these captured moments by you.
    Our book club sounds A LOT like yours – small (10 of us left now) and not really open to adding more to preserve the ‘sisterhood’ that has been created. Having been together for 4 years now – we also have had to wade through differences of opinions and life experiences.
    I had to comment since you wondered what is typical – I just know our club sounds a lot like your club. Very awesome!
    ~Jill
    (We were a featured club on Litlovers site so you can find us under Hot Lit Mommas).

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