The Book Club (2012)
The Book Club – RTÉ Radio, Doc on One (2012)
This is a documentary about one of Ireland’s oldest book clubs.
In rural Ireland in the 1970s, it was hugely challenging for women in domestic contexts to have an intellectual life. In contemporary Ireland book clubs are enormously and increasingly popular. But things were different in the 1970s, when no one had heard of them.
And so, when a dozen women met in 1974 in the West Cork countryside to talk about a book they’d read, their families wondered what it was they were up to – ‘you’re getting together to talk about a book?’ they asked, confused. But these women kept meeting, and kept reading and kept discussing, and they’ve been doing this for nearly forty years. This is their story.
The Book Club is about how this group sustained these women through much of their adult lives, through years of having and raising children, and eventually helping to raise grandchildren. Through being wives as well as mothers, through feeding families, minding homes as well as gardens, and all of the emotional and physical labour of these roles.
Through this book club these women formed friendships that became part of the backbone of their lives. For the outsiders in the group – the three English and two Americans – the book club was also a critical initiation into Irishness through literature and debate.
And for all these women, their book club meetings were, and remain a way to reach out into the world from the Irish countryside, to wrestle and work through political and social issues of all kinds, – identity, nationality, racism, feminism, sexuality, violence and love.
Unlikely as it sounds, it all started with a pottery class in Aherla, Co. Cork, 1974.
The Literary Dozen are Patsy Devoy, Nan Fitzgerald, Leigh Hudgens, Pat Lewis, Shevaun McDonnell, Imelda Murphy, Gretta O’Regan, Mary Purcell, Eileen Sherrard, Sesca Tyrell, Deirdre Wall and Marcia Wrixon.
Written, narrated and produced by Jools Gilson.
Production supervision by Nicoline Greer.
Sound supervision by Anton Timoney.
First broadcast: June 9, 2012