The Cardiff Feminist Book Club is the second of our official reading groups for 2020, shadowing the #ReadingWomen campaign to celebrate 25 years of the Women’s Prize for Fiction by rediscovering a quarter century of winning books, from Zadie Smith’s On Beauty to Naomi Alderman’s The Power.

The group was set up in April 2019 by a group of friends who wanted to meet like-minded women, share their love of books and have something for themselves. A year and 20+ members later, the club meets regularly for socials, donates to local charities and causes and has a fondness for Terry’s Chocolate Oranges and dresses with pockets.

The group say:
“We’re absolutely delighted for our book club to be involved in the #ReadingWomen campaign! We just celebrated our first birthday so it’s a nice birthday present. The books are so interesting as they really dissect the notion of family and relationships, we’re excited to get started on them. Our community is as strong online as it is offline so we’ll continue to meet by zoom and hopefully in person when it’s safe to do so.”

The Cardiff Feminist book Club has elected to read the family-themed trilogy of former winning books: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, On Beauty by Zadie Smith, and Home by Marilynne Robinson, which was discussed on the Women’s Prize podcast by novelist and journalist Anna James, musician and poet Arlo Parks, and novelist and short story writer Sophie Mackintosh. The group will report back when they’ve finished their reading and vote for their favourite to crown the winner of winners.

The group have found Covid challenging and had to adjust:
“Within our group we have a number of key workers such as nurses, healthcare professionals and teachers who have been impacted by Covid – this has caused issues with childcare, a sense of purpose, tension in relationships and a very stark reminder that women are most affected by Covid-19. We’ve all read Invisible Women by C C Perez so the issues around unpaid labour, PPE not suitable for women and a host of others are at the forefront of our minds. Some of the more normally engaged members have been quieter as they try to juggle their work, homelife, kids, dogs and more!

We wanted to keep engaging with our members and decided to buy a Zoom Pro plan so we could move online. We also want to keep our book club accessible and realise people are having a hard time in lots of ways, with many suffering financially due to furlough and job loss. We made our April club a ‘Bring Your Own Book’ special so people could choose a book they were reading, have read or wanted to read and felt this was a great way of taking the pressure off having to read a particular book or feeling like they had to buy a particular book. We also made our small fee optional and donated to Book Trust Cymru.

In between book meetings, we’ve hosted social events including a feminist literary pub quiz, and an evening catch-up to bring our members together. If anything, while this crisis has been a test, it’s almost made us a more active and tight-knit community, as our group has become a space for us to share, support and comfort one another.”

We were really impressed with the supportive and social feel of the Cardiff Feminist Book Club:
“Reading has always been a form of escapism and a way to root yourself in a story that isn’t yours, a lovely distraction from the reality of the awful situation we all face. Our reading club is more like a community of very supportive and empathetic women, we have a very active WhatsApp group and talk about lots of challenges we face, books and articles we’ve read, music, tv, film and more. One of our best lockdown discussions was around friendships and how many (if not all of us) feel that we have outgrown old friends or don’t have a ‘best friend’. I think it was a ‘eureka’ moment where we realised we weren’t alone in our thoughts and feelings.

We are first and foremost a feminist book club and we aim to read books by women, for women and are open to everyone. We want to celebrate women authors and encourage more people to read works by women. We’ve just celebrated our 1st birthday and in that short time have achieved more than we could’ve imagined. We read 10 books, held 15 meetings, gained around 30 members, have 1k followers on social media, a thriving WhatsApp group and held our biggest ever meeting with 30 people when we read The Handmaid’s Tale. We have also donated over 20 books to our local food bank in Cardiff and raised money for charity. So many of our members always turn to the Women’s Prize to look at what to read and many of our discussions around book club are based on these books and authors. The longlist, shortlist and winner announcements are like our versions of the Oscars without the frocks! Now more than ever we need to be sharing and hearing women’s voices, we’re facing a period of uncertainty and women are definitely the gender most affected by Covid-19. We want to be part of something that is positive and lifts women.”

Want to join in with the #ReadingWomen campaign? Find out more here.