Book Club

One of the things I’ve become recently involved with in Rio is a book club organised by a group of parents, (Mums), at the school. Strangely, although I’ve always been a reader, I’ve never before been in a book club, so before I went along, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was letting myself in for.

The first meeting was spent primarily getting to know the group, many of whom I’d met, but mainly in passing and through other school events which are usually busy and, of course, kid-centred. Unfortunately, as I’d only just joined, I wasn’t able to obtain the book of the month in time as it wasn’t available in ‘e’ format, and I subsequently hadn’t read it. So, I took a back seat, ate lovely food and listened to a group of smart, vocal ladies talk about “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. ‘Gabo’ was Colombian and very famous in South America, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. Consequently, (and in accordance with Nobel criteria), the group pretty much unanimously hated the book, agreeing upon this during some…er…spirited discussion.

The second meeting took place last week and this time I’d read the novel – “The Expats” by Chris Pavone. After eating yet more wonderful food, the group kicked off the conversation as per the host’s direction that we all pick a quote/passage that rang particularly true for us as we are all expats ourselves – a great exercise to generate discussion.

Out of the fifteen of us present, most had lived in numerous places around the world. Only three, (including myself), were expat virgins, with Rio being our first experience. However, it didn’t seem to matter as we all picked out passages and then described our own experiences in relation to that which we’d read. Each one of us, no matter how veteran, could identify with something:

  • traversing airports with tired, anxious children and ‘eleven luggages!’,
  • going to the store and taking ‘three hours just to buy cleaning products! I had to read everything…’,
  • finding a new sense of purpose, ‘call it volleyball, call it pilates, call it whatever you want….we all try to find a new routine as soon as possible.’

The passage that stuck out for me was –

“all these mothers, all these ex-lawyers and ex-teachers, ex-psychiatrists and ex-publicists. Expat exes.”

In my experience, motherhood in general runs the risk of women becoming ‘exes’ in their chosen careers, but this combined with being expatriated, pretty much guarantees it to the point that as we went around the room, none of us really knew what each other ‘used to do’. I think this is because for most partners, it is a sacrifice that has been made along the way. People have simply moved on and maybe the question is not asked because it is not particularly relevant. (At this point, there is probably space to reflect on being defined by what our husband’s do, but it’s too superficial to contemplate and, at least in this circle, is truly not what happens, thank god.)

I spent a few days wondering what it was about the book club meeting that I’d enjoyed so much and have finally realised it was quite simply something I miss from home – the company of funny, warm, smart women who value the importance and stimulation of a good old yak. Where would any community be without them?

(PS – I should probably confess that I was pretty much the only one who liked “The Expats” as it was not actually, in fact about expats. It was a crime thriller about an ‘ex’ CIA assassin, her cyber-fraudulent husband and their two young children, who just happened to be living abroad for the first time. A good read if you like that sort of thing, but I wouldn’t recommend you bother if you don’t.)

Random Rio Fact File:

Fact #1 The portuguese word ‘puxe’, pronounced ‘push’ means pull. I mean really!


Some of us have enough trouble getting through doors as it is.

5 thoughts on “Book Club

  1. Jo


    Brilliant yet again. You may be a number of ‘exes’ but I’m sure ‘writer’ will be up there sooner or later.

    Please, don’t stop!


  2. Riet

    HI Bronwyn – I found your post particularly thought provoking, not to mention entertaining as always. I can’t believe your bookgroup pals didn’t like One Hundred Years of Solitude. I just love Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ books. Love in the Time of Cholera is also wonderful.
    And about the ‘push/pull’ confusion – the sooner you realise that they really ARE all out to get you the better off you’ll be!


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