Supper Club by Lara Williams is a poignant, perceptive, and savagely funny novel about the disastrous realities of growing up in a modern world.
The book centers around a young British girl named Roberta- following her through various sexual, romantic, and societal exploits from her college days to her thirties. In the opening chapters, we experience Roberta’s deep dissatisfaction in college, and her all-encompassing depression at her social life. She is desperate to connect with her peers- to truly become like the effervescent social butterflies she sees in sitcoms on the television. Unable to do so, she begins cooking. What begins as a hobby soon spirals into an obsession. Roberta falls even deeper into depression- she is horrified by her body, and spends her days by herself, alone in her dorm, or working at her job in a small publishing company. Soon, she meets an intern named Stevie- the kind of woman Roberta would give everything to be like. They become very close friends, even moving in together- and then, one night, Roberta comes up with a marvelous and terrible idea: the idea of a Supper Club.
The club originally begins with the goal of letting women eat- letting them take up space, letting them exist– but soon, the women in the club are trashing stores and getting unbelievably high on various drugs. Amid this beautiful chaos, Roberta struggles to find meaning- struggling with the various men in her life, struggling with her family, struggling with herself. She pushes against the boundaries that hold her without quite knowing how to. She feels anxious and inadequate- yet, she feels beautiful and free.
That is the dichotomy that truly makes this a timeless book- uncertainty combines with melancholy combines with explosive ecstasy to truly make the novel whole. That’s also something I enjoyed about Roberta. She’s not perfect. She’s not even close. She is desperate and sad and pathetic and hopeful and strong all at once. She isn’t a perfect protagonist- but she is real. And that is the true thesis of Supper Club– about how society shrinks women and makes them fake- makes them ghosts. It’s about reclaiming space- reclaiming the true meaning of being a woman, with all its good and bad and ugly. It’s about reclaiming hope.
This book contains mature themes, such as self-harm and sexual violence, that may not be suitable for some readers.