Review: Supper Club – Lara Williams

The concept of the women’s supper club itself in Supper Club is deliciously unashamedly feminist. What happens when women exist in spaces they are told they shouldn’t exist in? When they experience pure joy and act on desires that they’re not supposed to have? When instead of always trying to make themselves smaller and smaller, they make themselves bigger and bigger, and take up more space?

It was this quirky premise that drew me to Supper Club, and an intelligent, slightly bizarre (in a wonderful way), feminist novel was certainly what I found!

After years of feeling unfulfilled and meandering through life, our protagonist Roberta meets a new friend Stevie. Stevie is an impulsive, passionate and somewhat unpredictable woman, and the two quickly become close friends. Something about Stevie and this new relationship ignites a fire in Roberta, and she finds herself wanting more. She wants to give into her hunger and desire. She wants to consume and be consumed. She wants to feed people, other women. These desires lead her to set up a secret supper club with Stevie and they begin to seek other women who are also hungry for life.

Roberta is such an interesting protagonist and I loved seeing the world through her eyes. One of my favorite scenes comes early in the book, and it captured for me immediately what life is like for Roberta. Anxiously sanding in a queue to buy coffee, she asks herself seriously what she wants to order, and then practices putting exactly what she is going to say when she gets to the front of the queue. But her fear of asking for what she wants overcomes her, and she ends up ordering the simplest thing she can think of. It is a short moment in the book, but completely summed up for me how Roberta’s anxiety and experiences in life have led her to be unable to realise her life’s full potential and (literally and symbolical) feed her hunger.

It was refreshing to see Roberta’s university life without the idyllic veil that is so often cast over these years. Thrown into this completely new environment, with new relationships to forge, a new culture to define, Roberta struggles to find her place. Despite all it is built up to be, she just can’t find much to be excited about. Here at university, and throughout the book, she navigates a series of difficult male relationships: with her father, university students, boyfriends.

All of these experiences sit in stark contrast to the wildly satisfying and joyful gatherings that Roberta finds through the supper club. In contrast to what I think of when I first hear ‘supper club’ – these gatherings are not about comfortable, carefully-planned socialising – they are about pure indulgence, pure joy and inhibition. And they are so much fun to read about!

As a book with food at its core, it also bursts with the flavours and smells of gorgeous recipes, as well as some immensely detailed sections on techniques and histories of dishes. I got lost in descriptions of Thai red curry and spaghetti puttanesca, which only after I’d finished reading would I then realise had been pages long. The passion food can ignite oozes out of these pages.

Reading Supper Club made me want to celebrate some of the amazing feminist fiction I’ve read this year. I’ve noticed a bit of a trend emerging this year of books using food as central theme or symbol to explore women’s desires and hunger for life. I loved The Woman Who Wanted More by Vicky Zimmerman, (you can read my review here). I’m also really excited to get stuck into Shelf Life, by Livia Franchini this month – which looks like it might have some similar themes. The idea of women ‘taking up space’ also reminded me of Fake Like Me, where our narrator, who is a female artist, has chosen an art form that is big – it involves huge frames, and takes up an immense amount of space.

Supper Club definitely adds something fresh and unique to these themes around women and food, hunger, desire and bodies and is really worth a read – particularly if you’ve enjoyed any of the above.

Supper Club is out now, with Hamish Hamilton. Thanks go to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

If you’ve read it – let me know what you think!

Sophie @Sophie_Jo_Books   📚 🐾

4 thoughts on “Review: Supper Club – Lara Williams

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