Book Review: The Dirty Book Club by Lisi Harrison

Woohoo! After feeling incredibly static and slothful with my reading goal this year, I feel like I’m finally making progress again. So far this year I haven’t really read many novels and what I did read I often didn’t finish. Because of this I’m feeling really good about having finished this The Dirty Book Club.

My copy of 'The Book Club' by Lisi Harrison

I got this second-hand copy a few months ago for free at a sustainability fair. I didn’t really know anything about it and basically picked it up on a whim based on the cover alone. There actually wasn’t much time in which to choose books so I barely even had time to read the blurb. Because of this, I didn’t quite know what to expect from this book. Whatever I did expect, however, is not what this book ended up being.

Related: Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

Lisi Harrison’s The Dirty Book Club is a book about love, friendship, overcoming fears, and discovering that what we think we want isn’t always what we need. The book follows the story of M.J., a workaholic and aspiring editor of a New York magazine who faces a curve-ball when her Basically Guaranteed To Be Hers promotion becomes split between her and a co-worker she dislikes. Upset and betrayed by this, she uses her saved-up holiday leave and moves to California to stay with her boyfriend. In California, her kind neighbour Gloria invites M.J. and three other young women to continue along with a forty-year long tradition that Gloria and her own three best friends created: the Dirty Book Club. Through this, M.J. learns about the previous members of the club and the current members, who soon become her good friends. Most importantly, she learns more about herself.

This book was a really easy read, so I’m glad that I read it now. I think it was the perfect type of read to get me out of my semi-reading slump. I needed something where I could just pick it up and read through it at my own pace without having to put too much thought into it.

Likes

Although the ending felt kind of open-ended and like it had some gaps in it, I think the denouement was quite effective at succinctly tying together loose ends, and it made me like the book a bit more. Spoiler: The ending was also quite ‘meta’, and cycled back to the beginning in a compelling way.

Though the book was a bit slow to start, it did start picking up a bit more in the second half. I actually read much of the second half in one sitting.

It is a fairly relaxing, easy beach read to pick up for a chapter or two or to speed-read 100 pages of.

It had some small, interesting plot twists. I won’t mention them here because that would be revealing very obvious spoilers, but they were noteworthy enough to at least hint at. Much of the events in this book felt pretty unexpected but not necessarily wholly shocking.

I found the overall structure of the novel to be different and quite interesting. Each book that the club reads forms the title of each part of The Dirty Book Club.

Although I didn’t love this book, I think that the general premise is definitely enthralling.

Dislikes

I felt that I couldn’t really relate to the characters in this book. I’m not sure if it is because of the way that the characters are written or presented, or if it’s just because they are different to me. Although relating to characters isn’t always the most important element of a novel, in a book like this where characters and their interpersonal relationships are a primary aspect of the story, it’s kind of a big deal.

I found this book to be quite slow to start. It felt a bit like I was struggling to find where the book was going in the first few chapters because it took a moment for the book to find its footing.

The first chapter is set in the 1960s, and then all of a sudden the rest of the book occurs in the present-day (with the exception of some letters). While I don’t think this is inherently a bad thing, it felt like the book had established a setting and then completely ignored those original characters for most of the rest of the book. Although I know that they weren’t the main characters, I think it would have been nice to see more of them.

This book isn’t what I expected. I have to be honest… I’m not really sure what I did expect. All I know was that it was difficult to place where this book was going or what it would be like. The title and general premise of the story hints at something more explicit (it’s not super explicit, in case that was your concern). I also thought that this book would be more about the club and its previous members. However, the previous members are mostly only heard in the first chapter and in four letters – one from each of them.

Final thoughts

Overall, I did like this book. Sure, I didn’t love it, but it wasn’t a bad book. I think I would recommend it to someone as long as they knew what to expect in this book. Please also note that this book does contain some sexually explicit comments and some swearing.

This book read a bit like an early work. It had promise but it just wasn’t quite there. This makes sense because as it turns out, The Dirty Book Club is Harrison’s adult novel debut. I’m glad I didn’t spend money on this book; I think this is definitely a borrow from the library or from a friend kind of book. However, because I did find the overall premise of this book to be intriguing, I think I just might pick up some other Lisi Harrison books and give them a try.


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