Not for the weak of stomach, Williams’ “Supper Club” was a visceral and unsettling exploration of carnal desires, the desperate search for love and acceptance, and testing the boundaries of what happens when we eschew restrictive social norms.
Written as a modern-day coming of age story, the book jumps back and forth through time, following the achingly lonely and socially awkward Roberta as she navigates through University and into early adulthood, detailing her formative experiences and relationships. Occasionally I found myself having to re-orient myself in time to determine where the narrative fell in relation to the timeline of Roberta’s life, however, for the most part, Williams was able to transition seamlessly, anchoring the reader’s understanding through key relationships in Roberta’s life.
Not being one to shy away from a strong feminist narrative, I was intrigued by the novel’s premise: “if you feed a starving woman, what will she grow into?”. I felt that on one hand, the book challenged me as a reader to explore my reactions and uneasiness to the demolition of certain social norms; it felt taboo, and very different from many “typical” feminist narratives. However, on the other hand, I felt that it came precariously close to falling into the simplified trap of focusing on the all-too-common struggle of body image, size, and self-worth.
Williams’ writing was somehow both deeply personal and intimate, yet simultaneously cold and detached. Her narrative was so involved that I often found myself physically uncomfortable, making the book feel like more of an immersive physical experience than just following along with a story. Roberta’s loneliness and social awkwardness was palpable, and I felt physically uneasy when some of the boundaries of social norms were challenged or downright obliterated. The carnage left behind from their supper club gatherings was perverse and jarring, yet the juxtaposition of gross excess and deep and intense longing was what made the story so unique. Overall, Supper Club was a multi-sensory experience worth delving into if you have an appetite for a read out of the ordinary.
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