It is isolated being a writer. You plot and scheme and aside from the things you make the characters say and do, you weave themes and recurring images into your text when you are writing but you never know if anyone, apart from you, notices any of it.
Well, they do. Reading groups are, if you like, professional readers. Each of those readers I faced had read my book and was an expert on its contents. Nothing had escaped their attention - they 'got' everything and had noticed all kinds of things that had been put there deliberately.
As a writer, the activity of reading is something I do a lot of. But I only read some books more than once. Not so these guys. I do believe that these readers in Hertfordshire read all their books more than once. They talked about it saying things like '... I only noticed it the second time round...' as if that was just their normal way of reading. I was deeply impressed. The time flew by. As I finished answering one question another took its place and each of these answers was more like a conversation anyway as the group all joined in with observations and supplementary points as we went along. They effortlessly asked me astute questions about the characters and about how I had structured the book. They knocked spots off any literature event audience I have ever been part of. (I myself have never been able to think of a question at such events,)
So if you're a writer; any chance you get to visit a reading group, take it. It obviously helps you to sell books so is a great opportunity for a writer anyway but the most wonderful thing is the rapport that you'll find you have just because they understand so well what you were getting at . You can't put a price on that. It just feels like the most inspiring kind of support you could possibly have so thank you, Hertfordshire Reading Group, I salute you.
Postscript: I have always wanted to see a kingfisher. While in Hertfordshire I went for a walk and saw three of them as we strolled alongside the river, Three! I practically leapt into the river with excitement and managed to take a picture of one of them with my phone. I also saw a great crested grebe and three herons and took blurred pictures of them too. I've seen herons before but the grebe and the kingfishers were a first for me which made the whole trip even more amazing.