I did what we say we won’t do and I chose a book based solely on its cover. I mean, look at it – do you blame me? When I was browsing the tables in Storysmith, the scrumptiously vibrant cover of Supper Club stood out a mile. I was intrigued by the blurb too. It ticked a lot of my boxes: dark, interesting female characters, feminist themes. Check, check, check. So it came home with me.
by Lara Williams
Published by Penguin 16/07/2020.
If you feed a starving woman, what will she grow into?
Twenty-nine-year-old Roberta has spent her whole life hungry. So she invents Supper Club: a secret society for women sick of bad men and bad sex. Fed up of being told to talk less, take less, be less, they gather after dark to feast and dance through the night. But as their bodies expand, so do their horizons, their desires – and their urge to break the rules.
You look hungry. Join the club.
Supper Club Review
Millennial malaise continues to be a popular sub-genre of fiction and this book sits quite nicely amongst its peers. If you take a look, Supper Club is frequently compared to Halle Butler’s The New Me, Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends and Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation. There are similarities to be sure – terse prose, the questioning of one’s self and purpose, avocados – but Supper Club does hold its own.
The timeline is split between modern-day Roberta, who is almost thirty, and her experiences of ten years before. These experiences are central to the person Roberta has become and therefore, are the crux of the story.
Roberta can’t wait to make her forever friends and become the cool adult that she knows all students become. College life doesn’t turn out as planned though as she struggles to click with her flatmates. To keep herself busy, she batch cooks in the tiny kitchen, but what should be an act of caring only makes her feel more alienated. Roberta’s loneliness and low self-worth seep through the pages and I felt heartbroken for this young woman and her self-perceived failures.
Roberta has no experience with men (she barely speaks to anyone really) so her first encounters whilst at college are completely horrific and traumatic. One is with a fellow student and the other with a much older man – both are vile and the impact of their actions follows Roberta through to her adult life. Some of this was quite difficult to read yet sadly is not shocking.
Fast forward to the other timeline and Roberta is working in a mundane job in the fashion industry. She keeps herself small, both in her body size and personality, to take up as little space as she can. Then she meets Stevie and they bond in a way that is completely surprising to Roberta. They quickly become roommates. Roberta cooks and Steve is an artist who is not making art. Together they come up with the idea for the Supper Club, a living art project for women to eat, grow and take up space.
I wish there was more of the supper clubs themselves because they were great scenes. Picture pure hedonistic spreads of food, eaten by the handful and washed down with booze glugged straight from the bottle. The women feast on these banquets, dance, laugh and cry. It was this idea that drew me to the book – I love the thought of women being unashamedly themselves, not calorie counting or worrying about how they look when they eat. Just eating and enjoying it.
Just at this point where Roberta is sinking into this indulgence, a familiar face comes back into her life. Unlike the other men she’s been with, this is someone who wants to care for her and who will treat her well. However, this relationship threatens all the work she has done for herself and the supper club, along with her friendships, suffers as she struggles to align who she wants to be and who she thinks she must be.
I liked the writing style of Supper Club and the themes that it explored (feminism, sexuality, body image etc.) but ironically it did leave me wanting more. I would have liked a bit more depth on the other characters and some of the ideas that were being explored. Having said that, if you like dark humour and reading about these themes too then it’s definitely one to pick up.
Have you read this book? What did you think?
Thanks for reading, speak to you soon.