Book Discussion Questions: Crocodile in the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

Crocodile on the Sandbank coverTitle:  Crocodile on the Sandbank
Author:  Elizabeth Peters
Page Count: 262 pages
Genre: Mystery, Historical
Tone:  Witty, descriptive

Summary:

 On the death of her father, 32-year old Victorian heiress Amelia Peabody travels Egypt to indulge her interest in Egyptology. An historical mystery with amusing repartee between a strong-willed Amelia and an equally pigheaded archaeologist named Radcliffe in an exotic setting and time.

 

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

1. With her inheritance, Amelia could live a pampered (albeit limited) life as an English lady. Why does she choose to travel Europe and Egypt?

2. How does Amelia differ from more typical Victorian women? If she stayed in England can you picture her being a suffragette in the British women’s movement?

3. What words would you use to describe Amelia? (Sarah Booth Conroy wrote in the Washington Post.: “All (E. Peters’ heroines) are opinionated, independent, strong, brusque, suspicious, quick to take offense, slow to ask for help, and funny”)

4. How do Amelia’s (British culture-prescribed) clothes hinder her activities in her Egyptian travels? Do they ever help? (pg. 116 mentions Rational Dress League)

5. What does Amelia think about romantic love? Marriage? Does this change by the end of the book?

6. Do you like Amelia as a character? How about as a narrator? As a reader, does it matter to you if you like main character?

7. Amelia is quite capable, confident, and rational. When do we see Amelia’s more emotional / vulnerable side? Does she ever doubt herself?

8. Amelia knows herself well. Do you believe she describe herself objectively (accurately)? How do other characters see her?

9. What do we know of Amelia’s looks? How does she perceive her outward appearance? Why would the author chose to not give us much information on this?

10. Why is Evelyn so distraught when Amelia first meets her? Do you find it surprising that Evelyn had contemplated suicide? Do you think she would have gone through with it?

11.What do you think of the friendship between Evelyn and Amelia? Is there anything else you would want to know about how they get along? Does the book give you enough information to comment on this?

12. What does Evelyn see in Amelia? And why is Amelia drawn to Evelyn? Do you think they are a likely pair to be friends?

13. Evelyn is more passive, emotional, indecisive, and gentle. Does Amelia ever get frustrated with Evelyn and her (more conventional) femininity?

14. Does Evelyn ever challenge Amelia? Does Evelyn change by the end of the book?

15. What would the story be like without Evelyn?   (What is the importance of a “sidekick” in a mystery?)

16. How would you describe Emerson?

17. Despite the tension and competition between them, Amelia and Emerson have more in common than they perhaps realize (scholarly interests, judgments of others, high standards, persnickety, etc). Do you think you get an accurate picture of Emerson from Amelia’s narrative?

18. In the beginning of chapter 2, Amelia says she “will spare the Gentle Reader descriptions of the journey and of the picturesque dirt of Alexandria” – do you think the author described the Egyptian setting in detail nonetheless? Was it the right amount? Would you want more or less?

19. What does reading this book tell you about the field of Egyptology in the late 1800s? What do you think about British interests in Egypt? Do you think it is okay for another country to get involved in discovery and restoration of artifacts?

20. How is Emerson’s approach archaeology depicted? What are his opinions of others in the field?

21. Did reading this book help you learn anything about Egyptology? Did the book entice you at all to travel to Egypt?

22. How did you respond to the unflattering descriptions of the characters who are not English / Caucasian? Is this E.P. in 1975 or E.P. characterizing Amelia’s views in 1880s? If this was an intentional character trait for Amelia, why?

23. What are we led to believe about these superstitious ways of Egyptian people?

24. Do you have any observations about Amelia’s (& others’) interactions with servants and workers?

25. How do her comments help us learn about Egyptian life in the late 1800s? Is there more about their culture you feel curious about? Are there elements of Egyptian culture that Amelia is not able to witness? (Are there things she isn’t aware of as a British traveler?)

26. How did Amelia’s narrative voice affect your reading experience? Would you say this is an essential aspect? Can you picture what it would be like if this book was written in the 3rd person?

27. Amelia and Emerson’s marriage proposal is not typical. Do you recall who proposes to whom? What does each say he/she will get out of the marriage?

28. Did you like Crocodile on the Sandbank overall? What about it did you most enjoy? If you didn’t care for it, what didn’t work for you?

29. Would this make a good movie? Who would you cast in a movie adapted from this book?

30. Is the experience of reading Crocodile on the Sandbank similar to other mysteries you have read? (No dead body… Is it unusual for mystery to not be about a murder?)

31. If you don’t typically read mysteries, did this fulfill your expectations of a mystery? Would you recommend this book to someone who likes mysteries? Would you recommend this to someone who likes historical fiction? Romance?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

Fan site on the Amelia Peabody series
Book Club Kit curated by Pinal County
Author website
Online book discussion
Washington post interview with author
Amelia Peabody’s Egypt: A Compendium

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