Book Club Guides
The Comfort of Others
- One of the themes of the novel is mothering. What do you think about Clara’s and Minnie’s mother, and Max’s mother? Do we understand why they behave as they do?
- We mostly see Clara through Minnie’s eyes, and she rarely speaks for herself. What did you think of Clara, and how do you think she feels about the life she has lived?
- Rosemount is a dominating presence in the novel. How do you think it changes during the course of it?
- Can we understand Minnie’s life as a kind of protracted penance? Do you think she sees it as that?
- How important is the buried token in the course of the novel?
- Max and Minnie make each other bold. Do you agree, and if so how?
- Max uses humour and self-deprecation as tools to share his frequently hurt feelings. Do you agree?
Away From You
- Did the novel affect how you think about the issue at the heart of it? How would you live your life if this happened to you?
- Did you relate to Monica’s frustrations at the beginning of the novel and do you think she was right to make the decisions she made?
- How did your feelings about Ursula develop and change in the course of the book?
- How do you think Daniel changed in the course of the novel?
- How do you feel about Gideon?
- Ruby does more to rehabilitate Ursula than any of the adults in the book. Do you agree?
- Could a novel on this topic ever have a fully resolved ending?
- Has the book changed or informed your views on adoption in any way?
- What did you think of the behaviour and attitude of Billy’s grandparents?
- How would you compare Meg Oliver and Lizzie?
- In the novel, do you think some of the adults are frequently at their most selfish when they think they are being kind?
- It’s Joey’s friendship which safeguards Billy from despair. Do you agree?
- Of the three potential new mothers Miriam sources for Billy, Elspeth is the only one who has insight into what he thinks or feels, and her tragedy is that is she is unable to escape her own limitations so is powerless to help him. Do you agree?
- How do the books Billy reads, his secret tree and his notes inform his emotional development?
Her Giant Octopus Moment
- Did you like, want to slap, or feel sorry for Joanie?
- How do you think you would have felt if you were Elisabetta?
- How do you think Ned’s feelings for Joanie – even before he knew of her deception – affected his initial feelings for Scout? Do you think his is the most emotionally complex dilemma in the novel?
- Has the novel contributed in any way to your understanding of surrogacy? Do you think there should be any hard and fast rules in our ages of biological possibility?
- What did you think of the adults who interacted with Scout during the course of the novel? Who do you think impacted upon her the most and who was your favourite?
- If you had been the judge, and if Joanie had not made her intervention, what decision would you have made?
- What did the novel make you think about what a child needs and who a child belongs to?
If Not Love
- Do you see this as a book in which some characters behave well and some do not?
- If you has been Martha or Robert, would you have abandoned your marriage or stayed? What do you think they should have done?
- Of the four older women – Martha, Isobel, Judith and Sheila – who did you most relate to and why?
- Judith sees all the women at the end of the book as ‘Juno’s women’. What is your understanding of this?
- How do you think the novel portrays marriage?
- Kay Langdale describes this book as of the home and hearth. What do you think she means by this?
- If Not Love was nominated for the Romantic Novel of the Year in the UK. In what ways do you think it can be considered romantic?