Jane Fraser reports from Stackwood on the first Fremantle Book Club meet featuring Holden Sheppard and Gillian O’Shaughnessy

We’re so excited to be a part of the Fremantle Book Club. As publishers, we have the privilege of working alongside new and emerging Western Australian authors every day, but what we don’t always get the chance to do is to hang out with WA readers. That’s why our first Fremantle Press Book Club get-together at Stackwood was particularly cherished by us all.

Organised by the wonderful team at the City of Fremantle and run on the day by Sophie Doy and Jayne Cleave, the event was hosted by Fremantle book nerd Gillian O’Shaughnessy of ABC Radio and Alan Sheardown of New Edition Bookshop, who was on hand to sell books. The featured book was Invisible Boys by City of Fremantle Hungerford Award winner Holden Sheppard, and the gathering attracted some 85 book club members.

Image of two women standing side by side smiling at the cameraIt has been suggested that book clubs provide one of the most popular ways for our community to participate in the arts, and may provide safe spaces for Australians to reflect on issues of history, identity and justice.¹ There’s even been research that points to the potential health benefits of book clubs, including the much-cited British Medical Journal article that devout book club members claim is proof that book clubs can increase your life expectancy, the University of Texas researchers who claim small community groups can strengthen your immune system and lower the risk of heart disease, and the University of Sussex researchers who found stress levels decreased by 68% after six minutes of reading – making it a far more effective stress-reliever than walking.²

Image of a crowd seated in a theatre style For me, the day exemplified the importance of book clubs in my life. I love them because you meet new and interesting people, and hear different perspectives. You discover new books, you read outside your genre and you find new favourites that you might never have found alone. I love them because some books have to be discussed: when I’m burning to discuss a book it gives me a buzz to agree and disagree with other readers. Then there’s the food. Shout-out to whoever made the strawberry cheese tartlets that were there on the day. Yum!Image of a woman and a man standing side by side smiling

The real highlight of the day, though, was the interaction between Holden Sheppard and the audience. Holden went to very personal places and gave of himself fearlessly and with an open heart. This seemed to give people permission to do the same and we had over 40 minutes of in-depth questions and comments.

Thank you to everyone who came along! We hope, all being well, to be seeing you throughout the year at these book club events, chatting with you in the online group and seeing the sales curve at New Edition Bookshop going stratospheric as you buy your discounted Fremantle Book Club reads.

Image of two women standing side by side smiling Our next book will be True West by David Whish-Wilson. The next event was scheduled for 6 June but keep an eye out on the Facebook group for updates.

Have a lovely March!


1 ‘Book Clubs and Reconciliation: A Pilot Study on Book Clubs Reading the “Fictions of Reconciliation”’ by Robert Clarke and Marguerite Nolan, published in Australian Humanities Review 56 ‘(2014),‘The Women’s Chapter: Women’s Reading Groups in Victoria’ by Marilyn Poole, published in Feminist Media Studies 3.3 (2003) and ‘Reading, Taste and Postcolonial Studies’ by James Procter, published in Interventions 11.2 (2009).
2 ‘Galaxy Stress Research’ by David Lewis, Mindlab International, University of Sussex, UK (2009).

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