The California Club is one of my all-time favourite books, so it seemed fitting that it should be the first book I review for Thinking Outside the Pickle Jar. I bought and first read this book in 2003 and I’ve read it at least once a year since! It’s like an old friend which I turn to whenever I want a really good comfort / laugh / cheer up / time. It’s the ultimate feel good chick lit with loveable characters, an involved storyline and amazing locations!
The story focuses on Lara and her four best friends the “Brighton Beau Belles”, whom she met whilst studying at Brighton University and living in her mum’s kitsch and cosy sea front bed and breakfast. An interior designer, Lara can’t wait to one day own and run the B&B, giving it her personal style and touch, and make it a home where her friends can once again come together, after the pressures of life have pushed them to drift apart. To celebrate her 30th birthday, Lara and her friends jet off to California to visit mumsy Helen (who has recently relocated there), and reconnect and remember the good times.
Elliott is the one “beau” of the group, and Lara’s long time unrequited love interest. A few near misses along the way, Lara and Elliott seem destined to be just best friends, particularly as Elliott introduces his new (and dreadful!) girlfriend Elise to his group of “belles”.
Zoe is Lara’s adopted sister, guy crazy, full of fun and desperate to be “discovered”, she’s one of my favourite characters and provides much of the humour and fun times in the book.
Sasha is the serene and beautiful ex-model who is struggling with inner turmoil caused by her external beauty, which causes everyone to make assumptions about her and Sasha to wonder who she really is. Sasha’s journey through the book gives it an added depth which levels out Zoe and Lara’s bounding upbeat energy and adventures.
Helen is the mum of the group, who keeps check of them all, organising and checking in with each of her friends. Worried about each of her friends, and concerned that “life” has got in the way of their past unity, she tempts the Brighton Beau Belles out to visit her in California, where she has transformed herself from dowdy suit to full of life surfer. The secret to her success? The mysterious California Club….
The story follows the group’s adventures as they too try to grab themselves a piece of Helen’s happiness by joining The California Club, which promises to grant them all their one true wish as long as they abide by the strict rules for one week of their holiday. The group are split up and each sent on a journey of discovery and exploration, with some hilarious exploits along the way! I love how, although focused on the point of view of Lara, you get a really deep insight into each one of the five main characters, as well as a host of others along the way (the wonderfully snobby Elise and utterly gorgeous Joel are particularly great!).
As with all Belinda Jones books, the locations of the adventures are also a key element to the novel, and almost act as another set of characters! The California Club takes its readers to several fabulous and beautiful parts of California, including downtown LA (where Zoe finally fulfils her dream of bedding a celebrity), a run down tiger retreat (where Sasha deals with some angry cats and angry trainers), serene Yosemite National Park (where Elliott gets a taste of his own medicine) and a self help centre in peaceful Carmel-by-the -Sea (where Elise learns a humbling lesson in humility).
P.S – you can read the first chapter of The California Club for free on Belinda Jones’ website www.belindajones.com
I live in Brixton in London. I eat out far too much, am always planning my next trip and have a borderline unhealthy obsession with Harry Potter.