For all of the progress women have made in the last few decades, we aren’t quite there yet. There’s that infuriating—and too-frequently repeated—adage that “boys will be boys.” There are the perfectly-toned Instagram influencers who peddle thinly veiled weight-loss plans as “wellness programs.”
But then there’s Lara Williams’s debut novel, Supper Club, a big f*ck you to both of those things. It’s about women reclaiming their space and refusing to fit—literally and figuratively—into society's expectations. It's also a culinary love letter, and it's totally invigorating.
Supper Club tells the story of Roberta, a British woman in her late 20s whose life is best described as “fine.” She has a steady job at a fashion website, and spends most of her nights alone cooking for herself. It’s entirely routine and predictable, and on the verge of 30, she wants more.
Then she meets Stevie, an intern at her company who’s a free-spirited, aspiring artist. The two develop a quick and close friendship, and eventually become roommates. Finally, Roberta has someone to cook for, and the two relish in their meals together. That’s when they decide to open up their dinners to others, founding the titular Supper Club.
But if you’re assuming this is a fancy dinner party series, think again: The Supper Club dreamed up by Roberta and Stevie is a bacchanalian feast that’s messy and savage and entirely free of judgement. The elaborate meals are put together after dumpster diving sessions and are served in all sorts of random locations—sometimes legal, sometimes not so much.
In flashbacks, we learn about the events that have drawn Roberta into her shell—specifically a sexual assault when she was in college. Supper Club evolves into something that’s part therapy session and part performance art, a space where these women can unleash their rage (sometimes literally having vicious food fights) and push societal boundaries.
Williams proves herself to be a talented food writer, though some of her descriptions aren’t for the faint of stomach (or the, um, plant-based of mind). “Don’t believe vegetarians who tell you that meat has no flavor, that it comes from the spices or the marinade,” she writes. “The flavor is already there: earth and metals, salt and fat, blood.” She opens many of the chapters with recipes for delicious, decadent dishes like Thai red curry, sourdough bread and Gruyère soufflé, making this book part engrossing food fiction, part extremely useful cookbook.
With elements of Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter, Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Phoebe Waller Bridge’s series Fleabag, Supper Club is a succulent, unapologetic celebration of female friendship, female rage and female appetite.