Becoming Janice and the Book Club Experience

Jul 1, 2024 | Real life, Review | 0 comments

This June I had the honor of sharing Becoming Janice with the Groningen Book Club. The club is run under the umbrella, or should I say parasol in this stunning summer weather, of the International Welcome Center North, aka IWCN. The IWCN supports international newcomers in their transition to living, working, and settling in the far north of the Netherlands. It organizes many events for newcomers to discover all the goodies the north has to offer. Such as this book club, whose members meet in Groningen every month to connect over their love for reading fiction in English.

Coordinator of the club is Gabriella, who recently moved to Groningen from Sydney. Back in Australia, she was a literary scholar. Now she’s writing her first novel. Which brings me to my second novel.

Having heard (ahem, via me) (full disclosure: I’m in the club) that Becoming Janice had been released, club members kindly voted to read my book for our June event. Some members already had it on their reading list and agreed it would be a great choice. “What a luxury,” said Silvia, “to have the opportunity to discuss a book with its author.”

Zo gezegd, zo gedaan (as the Dutch like to say: no sooner said than done). Hosted by Janny in her spacious apartment overlooking the placid waters of the Zuiderhaven, the June meeting began with a warm welcome from the ten members present, including newbie Hana who greeted me with a huge smile. “You’re the author,” she said, “I recognize you from the photo on the cover.” Believe me, dear Reader, that’s never happened before!

After refreshments, we settled down, taking turns to talk about the book. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of the comments (no spoilers!) but not even halfway through the coven (ahem, book club), the consensus was clear: people loved the book. They found it an easy read, but found the titular character soooo annoying! Janice’s penchant for making stupid decisions on her journey to self-discovery was such a pain (much like when you’re watching a horror film and, despite you yelling Don’t Do It, the heroine still goes into the scary haunted house). But, as the old maxim has it, “no pain, no gain.” If our heroine doesn’t have problems to overcome, riveting the reader in the process, what’s the point of the book? ADD TROUBLE, one of my writing teachers used to say. And they’re right.

Luckily (for my ego), despite their dislike of Janice-the-person, these readers found the plot compelling enough to want to finish reading Becoming Janice and—icing on the cake—several asked when is the sequel coming out. They all wanted to know what happens to Janice next. Yay!

We went on to chat about other details of the book for another good hour, a record length for our book discussions. Again, I won’t slip into revealing spoilers, but one idea I hadn’t realized myself came from the younger members of the club who pointed to the similarities between life in the Netherlands in 1980 (the setting of the book) and life here today.  French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr is right: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.*

Next day, Alexandra, a previous coordinator of the club who sadly had been unable to come to this meeting, posted on our WhatsApp group: “I hope you had a great evening chatting with the author and discussing her book. I was so curious as to what you all thought.”

Longstanding member Ann replied: “Best book discussion ever! Ragini got some good feedback. Several newcomers blended right in. An up-beat evening. And Janny: thanks for being such a terrific host!”

I second that motion and would like to extend my gratitude to all members of IWCN’s Groningen Book Club who took the trouble to read Becoming Janice. I’m glad you enjoyed the experience.

Further reading

IWCN Groningen Book Club
FREE download: Becoming Janice: Book Club Questions
Anne Taintor, quirky collage artist, The Not Quite Perfect Housewife
* “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”


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