A New York Italian restaurant, your best girlfriends, wine, and dessert – what else do you need? The premise of Book Club: An Evening at Franc’s is promising.
Franc is a successful third-generation owner of the restaurant named after its founder. She has what it takes to run a business and develop strong customer relationships, but is immature and tentative about romantic entanglements. A group of white, middle-class women “take refuge” from the bumps and lumps of their everyday lives in monthly book club meetings at Franc’s where the focus is less on the books and more on the fun and frustration of being modern women.
The potential to see yourself (and your friends) in these women – to laugh, love, or cry with them, to be jealous of them or indignant on their behalf should be enough to draw you in. Unfortunately, it isn’t. While author Jeannette Dashiell is well-intentioned, her realization of the characters and their stories falls short of the vision. For women that have been friends for 10 years, none of the characters seem to really know or care about each other. There is one allusion to three or four of the girls “being there” for another during a particularly difficult time, but there is no sense of history or deeply shared emotion among the group. They are mostly rather flat characters who we are told much about but who we don’t see doing much. A classic case of too much telling, not enough showing. Rather than a story where characters and relationships are explored and developed, Book Club reads more like stage direction or script notes. It is easy to visualize the text brought to life in a romantic-comedy tv series, but as a read it never quite manages to live up to the promise.
Book Club: An Evening at Franc’s is introduced as the first in a series. Perhaps the writing will mature and the characters grow as the author finds her writing legs, but I won’t be checking in to find out.
Review by: Paula Hayden