Friends happy to share their life stories By Yazmine Lomax

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For Mornington-based book club The Happy Bookers, the third Tuesday of every month means a discussion of their latest read with a side of wine and cheese. The brainchild of Sarah Hansen and Dee Rorke, The Happy Bookers’ story began 11 years ago and is still going.

There are currently 12 members of the group, which only recently settled on its name. “We went to see The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society,” original member Francesca McLoughlin explains. “We wanted a name like that for our group. Someone suggested The Happy Bookers and we were quite ‘happy’ with that!”

The group meets each January to decide the books and the meeting dates for the coming year. Every month, one member hosts while another brings food and a third is tasked with preparing questions and leading the discussion. “We each enjoy the opportunity to put forward our own opinions and feel safe to do so without the risk of criticism,” explains Gabrielle Gordon. “This is very special and allows us all to not only reflect on how we think and feel, but also how those around us think and feel.”

“We talk over each other, we disagree, we often are honestly raw,” continues Amy McKenzie-McHarg. “What makes this a great group is that we are not afraid to speak openly and truthfully and know that, whatever happens, we'll be there for the next book and to share another bottle of wine.”

The Happy Bookers have had some climactic plot points in their narrative, including meeting the authors of books they’ve read together. The ladies enjoyed discussing the life and writing process of Sohila Zanjani, author of Scattered Pearls, over dinner and recently caught up with Music and Freedom author Zoe Morrison to chat about her award-winning novel.

“What stands out to me is that although it started being about books and a shared love of reading, it’s now something so much bigger,” says Sally Lloyd. Lucia Keightley, who returned to university as a mature-age student, agrees. “The interest and encouragement that has been shown to me over the years has all gone towards my success in achieving my dream of furthering my education.”

“As we have been together for 11 years, our book club has experienced the great excitement of births, the enormous sadness of deaths and every other emotion,” Sarah Hansen says. “We are more than a book club now — we are lifelong friends.”

Who says reading has to be a solitary experience?