“On the same page” is a series featuring Utah book clubs.
Editor's note: If you have a book club and you are interested in being featured, please contact us at [email protected] Please include your name, your contact information and one or two sentences describing your book club.
SALT LAKE CITY — When Joan Fisher, president of The Belle Lettres book club, answered the phone for an interview with the Deseret News, she was pleasantly surprised and quickly eager to share the history of her book club, which just kicked off its 52nd consecutive year.
In 1966, two young moms decided to start a book club in their Salt Lake neighborhoods, naming it after the French term for a type of fine writing that focuses on a language's aesthetic qualities. The two moms each invited a few friends and have been expanding and enhancing ever since. Fisher, who has been a member of Belle Lettres for the past 30 years, said that five out of the eight charter members still attend. Throughout the past 52 years, they’ve mingled with some pretty impressive women, including a state senator, and wives of congressmen and Latter-day Saint mission presidents. Today they boast 27 active members and are as close as ever.
Deseret News: What are most of your meetings like?
Joan Fisher: Originally, (the women) met in the evening, as all had small children. Through the years, we have changed to mornings, especially after getting the children in school. We meet monthly from September to May. Our format is that one member gives a book review. This is almost a lost art in today’s world. The reviewer retells the whole book, reading important passages in the author's own words. Today, most book groups have gone to all reading the book and having a discussion. We do both, so you want to attend whether you have read the book or not.
DN: What are some of your most memorable book club experiences?
JF: We have a Christmas party and summer party with husbands, and a spring luncheon in May. Our husbands have become very good friends. About 25 years ago … we started going to St. George in the spring on a little getaway. The ladies would plan these elaborate three-day parties; you'd think that they were in sorority with all of these games and activities and sometimes … different names and themes — once it was a boat theme and we just did all these extra fun things. So that's really when we got closest as a group.
DN: What is your book club currently reading?
JF: One of the gals had the owner of The King's English come last year and she gave us a list of books to read and I have chosen one of those that I am going to review for the group. The reason I chose it is because it is about art and women and it's called “The Madonnas of Leningrad,” and it takes place in Leningrad in World War II. It was a best seller in the last couple of years.
DN: What have you learned or gained from being involved in this group?
JF: My most valuable asset in my book club is first of all about the friendships — the ladies and the friendships and the quality of ladies that are in our group. And secondly, it would have to be the learning and the broadening of my own life …making me a more well rounded person. And … just the fun. I think that we all have our relationships with other human beings, and especially those that go on for so many years, we have such a background, we know each other so well, we can laugh together and we can cry together and we can support each other. And all of those things are very important in life.
The Belle Lettres Recommends:
“The German Girl: A Novel,” by Armando Lucas Correa, Simon & Schuster, 368 pages (f)
"Pride and Prejudice," by Jane Austen, Penguin Random House, 384 pages (f)
“On Mystic Lake,” by Kristin Hannah, Mass Market Paperback, 416 pages (f)
“The Devil in the White City,” by Erik Larsen, Penguin Random House, 464 pages (nf)
“The Glass Castle,” by Jeanette Walls, Simon & Schuster, 320 pages, (nf)1 comment on this story
“Destiny of the Republic,” by Candice Millard, Penguin Random House, 432 pages, (nf)
“Where the Wind Leads,” by Vinh Chung, Thomas Nelson, 368 pages, (nf)
“A Gentleman in Moscow,” by Amor Towles, Penguin Random House, 719 pages, (f)
“I am Malala,” by Malala Yousafzai; Little, Brown and Company, 336, (nf)
“Passport to Hiroshima,” by Toshihanu and Rita Kaso, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 378, (nf)
“The Madonnas of Leningrad,” by Debra Dean, Harper Collins Publishers, 228 pages (f)