Vishy's Reviews > The Meryl Streep Movie Club

The Meryl Streep Movie Club by Mia March
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I discovered ‘The Meryl Streep Movie Club’ by Mia March through Kelly’s review of it. I love books with a movie theme – I loved ‘The Film Club’ by David Gilmour. So, when I read Kelly’s review, I couldn’t resist getting the book. I rarely get a book as soon as it comes out – I am normally the last guy to know about a new book release – and so it was one of the rare occasions when I got a book as soon as it came out. The book came out in June, I got it in June and I read it in June. I haven’t done something like this since the Harry Potter series came out. Here is what I think about the book.

‘The Meryl Streep Movie Club’ is about two sisters Isabel and June, their cousin Kat and their aunt Lolly, Kat’s mother. Isabel and June have lost their parents in an accident which takes away Lolly’s husband too. Lolly brings up the two sisters and her own daughter. Lolly runs an inn in Boothbay harbour, Maine and the three young girls grow up there. They don’t see eye-to-eye with each other.

When her parents die, Isabel is comforted by Edward, who lives nearby. Isabel and Edward fall in love, get married and move out of Boothbay. Initially, Isabel and Edward have a beautiful, fairytale marriage. They have a pact from the start – to have no children. But after ten years of marriage, Isabel starts yearning for a baby. She talks about it with Edward but he tells her about the pact and drops the topic. This brings a distance between them. Isabel tries to make up, but Edward becomes more and more distant. One day Isabel discovers that Edward is having an affair with a married woman who has a baby of her own. Isabel is so shocked that she walks out of her home.

June goes to Columbia university to study journalism. One day Isabel meets a young man with a most universal name, John Smith. John Smith has a most common name, but as a human being he is not so common at all. June falls in love with him and John makes her feel special. John tells her that he is a student, who has taken a break from work to travel around and explore his country. They spend two days together. They make plans for the third day, but John doesn’t turn up. June searches for him, but to no avail. June then discovers that she is pregnant. She is devastated. She is not able to continue her studies at university and goes back to Boothbay. She stays with her aunt and works in a local bookstore. Henry, who owns the local bookstore, helps her out during this difficult time and is like a rock. June has a beautiful son called Charlie, who looks very much like John. At one point, June moves out of Boothbay to Portland, where Henry has another branch of his bookstore.

Kat stays with her mother, and helps her out at the inn. She also learns baking and starts her own business from the inn, baking beautiful birthday cakes for her clients who order them frequently. She hopes to start her own bakery in the town some day soon. Kat’s best friend in Boothbay is Oliver. Both of them know each other since they were five years old. As they grow older, Oliver falls in love with Kat. Kat is not sure about her feelings for him. She thinks in her heart that she loves him, but does not seem to have any romantic feelings towards him.

This is the point at which the main part of the book starts. Lolly invites her two nieces to the inn, telling them that she has an important announcement to make. She also tells Kat about this. The three women are puzzled at what Lolly was going to tell them. They arrive at the inn during the week. After dinner, Lolly makes an announcement. It is devastating for all the three of them. They were already coping with challenges in their lives and now they get news which knocks them over. While they are struggling to cope with the news, Lolly tells them that it is Meryl Streep Month and invites them to come and watch ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ the first night. They are joined by Lolly’s friend Pearl and some of the guests staying at the inn. The weeks run by, as the four women stay together in the inn, learn new things about each other, learn to become friends with each other, watch Meryl Streep movies together and talk about them, discover surprising ways in which Meryl Streep movies reflect their own lives. During the time they discover themselves, get to know secrets from their past, meet new people, fall in love. There is a sad event in the end for the reader, but there are some happy endings as well.

I enjoyed reading ‘The Meryl Streep Movie Club’. It was a nice, comfortable, fast-paced summer read. Watching movies together, discussing about them and using that to resolve life’s problems is an interesting idea. I couldn’t help comparing this book to Karen Joy Fowler’s ‘The Jane Austen Book Club’. I felt that the prose in ‘The Jane Austen Book Club’ was better – it had so many quotable quotes. In contrast, Mia March’s style is more conversational – she sprinkles words like gorgeous, awesome and handsome liberally throughout the book. She also mentions types of cakes and the icings they have, quite often, while creating the atmosphere of the film night. Sometimes it does get a bit repetitive. But the thing I liked about ‘The Meryl Streep Movie Club’ was that it felt like one was part of a conversation with real people. One became a part of the book. There was no attempt by the author to makes the sentences in the book look more beautiful and deep – it was all so natural. Normally when one is part of a beautiful conversation with one’s friends or with one’s near and dear ones, there are not many quotable quotes that one remembers later. But the whole experience is pleasant and there is a warm, fuzzy feeling at the end of the conversation. That is what I felt when I finished ‘The Meryl Streep Movie Club’. That is one of the strengths of the book, I think. My favourite part of the book was the story of June – how she is disappointed when John doesn’t turn up, how her life is thrown out of gear because of her pregnancy, how she ends up working in a bookstore and how she falls in love with it, how she loves her son, how after years she decides to search for John’s family so that her son could get to know his father and the surprising things that happen.

Now, something on Meryl Streep. I was a late comer to Meryl Streep. The first movie of hers that I watched was ‘Death Becomes Her’. (For some reason, this movie is virtually unknown today. It won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects). It didn’t make me love Meryl Streep. I saw more movies of hers, but I didn’t like her till I saw ‘Kramer Vs Kramer’. Then I saw a few more of her movies, and I liked some of them. My favourite Meryl Streep movies, as of today, are ‘Kramer Vs Kramer’ (though I didn’t really love her character in the movie), ‘Doubt’ (though I hated her character in that movie, I loved her performance – it was amazing acting. She should have won an Oscar for that) and ‘Mamma Mia’ (probably my most favourite Meryl Streep movie – loved her character, loved Meryl Streep, loved her singing). I liked ‘The Iron Lady’ too. I need to watch ‘Out of Africa’, ‘Sophie’s Choice’, ‘The Deer Hunter’, ‘Postcards from the Edge’ and ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ before deciding whether to include more movies on this list. Meryl Streep is not my most favourite actress from her generation. Susan Sarandon is. I don’t know a Susan Sarandon movie that I haven’t liked. I have loved every movie of hers that I have watched. Meryl Streep’s movies didn’t work like that for me. (Meryl’s fans are going to kill me, I know!) But Meryl Streep’s filmography is awesome. Most actresses and actors fade away after their prime. They end up acting in comedies or in TV series. (There is nothing wrong in acting in comedies or TV series. I love comedies and TV series. But one gets the feeling that the actor / actress is cruising on autopilot mode.) But not Meryl Streep. Her three best actress Oscar nominations (with one win) in the last four years is really something. It shows her passion for her art.

The movies that are discussed in ‘The Meryl Streep Movie Club’ are mostly movies which are related to the central themes of the book – love and affairs. The movies discussed in the book are ‘The Bridges of Madison County’, ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, ‘Mamma Mia!’, ‘Heartburn’, ‘Defending Your Life’, ‘Kramer vs Kramer’, ‘Postcards from the Edge’, ‘It’s Complicated’, ‘Out of Africa’ and ‘Julie & Julia’. Out of these, I have seen ‘Mamma Mia!’, ‘Kramer vs Kramer’ and ‘Julie & Julia’. I have also seen bits-and-pieces of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and ‘Out of Africa’. While reading the book I also discovered that I have watched ‘It’s Complicated’, though I couldn’t remember that till I read about it. Other Meryl Streep movies are mentioned in the book in passing – like ‘Sophie’s Choice’ and ‘The Iron Lady’ – but they are really not part of the book. I was disappointed that ‘The Hours’ wasn’t mentioned. And neither was ‘Doubt’ nor ‘The Deer Hunter’. Probably because they don’t fit the theme of the book. Four of the movies discussed in the book are also from recent years – I don’t know whether this was done to appeal to a modern audience.

‘The Meryl Streep Movie Club’ is a light, fast-paced, summer read. It is a good book to read while sitting in your garden, munching a cupcake and sipping your afternoon tea. I am glad I read it. I think it will make a good movie too.

I will leave you with a couple of my favourite passages from the book.

“Reading her journals won’t tell you who you used to be. It’ll tell you who your mother was, what she thought. Really thought. Not what you think she thought. Not who you think you were through her eyes. There’s a lot you didn’t know about your mother.”

When Charlie came into the kitchen in his Spider-Man pajamas and rumpled hair, flinging himself into June’s lap for a hug, Marley’s expression changed.
“Oh my God,” Marley said, her eyes full of something like shining wonder.
“Yeah,” June whispered. “No matter what, this is what you get.”

Have you read ‘The Meryl Streep Movie Club’? Do you like Meryl Streep’s movies? Which movie of hers is your favourite?
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Reading Progress

April 30, 2012 – Shelved
June 23, 2012 – Started Reading
June 23, 2012 –
page 66
June 24, 2012 –
page 117
June 25, 2012 –
page 138
June 25, 2012 –
page 204
June 26, 2012 –
page 263
June 27, 2012 –
page 325
June 27, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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Bhargavi Balachandran Sounds like loads of fun! Could I borrow this from you at the next meet?

Vishy Bhargavi wrote: "Sounds like loads of fun! Could I borrow this from you at the next meet?"

It is a really wonderful book, Bhargavi. Of course, you can borrow it. I will bring it to the next meet.

Bhargavi Balachandran Thanks for the book, Vishy. Loved it!

Vishy Bhargavi wrote: "Thanks for the book, Vishy. Loved it!"

Glad to know that you liked it, Bhargavi. It is one of my favourite film-based novels. I will look forward to reading your thoughts on it. If you would like to read Sarah Hall's 'The Carhullan Army', I can bring it to the meet next time.

Bhargavi Balachandran Sure, would love to read this one.. thanks! I'll get TGC's book for you for the next meet.

Vishy Bhargavi wrote: "Sure, would love to read this one.. thanks! I'll get TGC's book for you for the next meet."

Thanks Bhargavi! Looking forward to reading TGC's book. I will bring 'The Carhullan Army' to the next meet.

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