Photo Credit: Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Her mother died, and in her grief, this South African started a group to help others with their struggles too. This is the Silent Book Club.


Johannesburg, South Africa (08 April 2022) – After nine months of mourning her late mother, Roelien’s death. Clair van Eeden gave birth to her brainchild: a silent book club.

Aimed at giving avid readers time to break away from their busy schedules and taking an hour or two to read in the company of fellow readers, this book club serves as a 2-in-1.

“I love meeting in coffee shops; we have so many lovely ones in Parys, South Africa. We talk before and after our hour of silent reading while settling in and ordering coffee. Before the official hour starts, we share what book we brought to read and if there is a specific reason why that book was chosen,” says Clair.

Although the reading hour is not strictly complete silence, this pastor says ordering food and greeting a passing friend is encouraged.  At the end of the hour, members are encouraged to share what they read and enjoyed about their books before saying their goodbyes. The choice of book is also not set in stone.

“I will send a monthly e-mail with suggested e-books, costing R100 or less and books without scenes of graphic sex or violence, to read after reading many reviews about the book. “Choosing a book to read is not the first choice when you have dishes to wash or clothes to sort.”

The silent book club idea followed Clair’s mourning process. Having been an avid reader since childhood, it was the first thing this home school mom of six found comfort in during her grief. One of the books which moved her was the audiobook called ‘The Top five Regrets of the Dying’ by Bronnie Ware.

“I think it was the word ‘regret’ (that spurred me on). One of the regrets in the book is ‘I wish I stayed in touch with my friends. I knew I needed to connect with them after I’ve secluded myself from my family and friends.” 

“My mom’s death slowed me down. I took stock of my life, my time and realised I needed to bring balance. I asked a few of my friends that loved to read if they would like to join a book club. I started writing a monthly newsletter sharing a few of my thoughts and also book choices. It was two or three months of only e-mails when I thought about doing a silent book club get-together.”

She says her silent book club makes provision for introverts like herself and extroverts like her friends.

“It is all about connecting while doing what we love. My friends have been an integral part of bringing joy and finding meaning in life on my grief journey, and the good books have been a welcome bonus!”

Clair is planning to host April’s book club on the riverbank of the Vaal River, where readers can sit under the trees in their camping chairs. If anyone wants to join Clair’s silent book club, send an e-mail to clairvaneeden1@gmail.com .

“My hope is that others in mourning will be inspired to connect again and slowly put their broken pieces back together as well!”

Sources: Gerda-Marié van Rooyen
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Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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