Check It Out Category: Fiction

Book Discussion Questions: Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier

Falling Angels book coverTitle:  Falling Angels
Author:  Tracy Chevalier
Page Count: 324 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Social Commentary
Tone:  Evocative, Dramatic, Strong Sense of Place

Summary:
In a novel of manners and social divisions set against the backdrop of turn-of-the-century England, two girls from different classes become friends, and their families’ lives become intertwined in the process.

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2016 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. With which character did you empathize most? Do you think this was the author’s intent?

2. Did you find the characters believable? If so, what made them ring true?

3. How entrenched is the novel in London during the Edwardian era? Why was this time/place chosen?

4. What details of time period brought the story to life? Did you respond favorably to the degree of description?

5. Could this story have worked in a different time setting? A different place? Does it have something to say to contemporary audiences?

6. Gertrude describes Kitty this way: “a vein of discontent runs through her that disturbs everything around her…She thinks too much and prays too little.” Is this a fair representation? What was your reaction?

7. Is Kitty a bad mother? What about Gertrude’s indulgence?

8. What does Simon add to the story? Some criticism complains that his continued friendship with the girls and their families is the least believable. What do you think?

9. Is someone to blame for what happened? Who bears most responsibility, who shares it, or is it simply circumstance?

10. Which other characters made significant impressions either on the events of the story or on your experience of it? Explain.

11. The New York Times Book Review wrote, “This is Tracy Chevalier’s singular gift: through the particular perspectives of a few finely drawn characters, she is able to evoke entire landscapes…there are no stock characters here, none who are perfectly comfortable in the niche society has assigned them.” Would you agree that there are no stock characters? Was no one in the story comfortable in his/her role?

12. How might you describe the gender dynamics of the story? Were the men uniform in how they viewed and treated women? Were they challenged in these perceptions?

13. Was the title aptly chosen? In which passages are falling angels referenced or illustrated? Other angel imagery?

14. Chevalier has said, “I used to make all sorts of pronouncements [like] ‘Men and women [are] absolutely equal.’ Now…I understand how things aren’t equal.” What in this book supports this view? Do you agree?

15. What did you think of Caroline Black? Of how the suffrage movement was depicted?

16. The cemetery is a recurring symbol, a “site of beginnings as well as endings”. What are examples from the story that support its importance? What message is the author trying to convey?

17. Which events would you consider most significant to the characters? Did these seem important as you read them?

18. What is gained by having multiple narrators? Were there narrators you enjoyed more than others? Would you personally have preferred the story told by one person?

19. Chevalier has earned a reputation as a novelist who expertly articulates the way women negotiate the demands of society. Is this true in Falling Angels?

20. Did you enjoy the author’s style?

21. People characterized the book as “a thoughtful exploration of the ways people misread each other by being trapped in their own perspectives.” Would you agree? Would you have described it with a different theme?

22. How did you feel at the end of the book?

23. What do you think happened to the characters after the book ended?

24. Was this book what you expected?

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

OTHER RESOURCES:

BookPage feature on release of Falling Angels
The New York Times review of Falling Angels
Background, review, and questions from Reading Group Guides
The Independent‘s “General History of Women’s Suffrage in Britain
BBC Radio4: Tracy Chevalier and Audrey Niffenegger tour Highgate Cemetery

READALIKES:

Park Lane book coverPark Lane
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by Michael Phillips

Foxs Walk book coverThe Fox’s Walk
by Annabel Davis-Goff

We’ve Got You Covered: Flat Ladies on Books

What can you tell by a cover? Not everything, of course, but it can offer a peek into tone, topic, and audience. If you are ready for stories that are accessible, contemporary, lively, and straightforward, try one of these bright “flat art” covers, designed to entertain. Sunglasses, though common, are optional.

Window Opens book coverA Window Opens
Elizabeth Egan
Enchanted August book cover
Enchanted August
Brenda Bowen

 

Cover of Crazy Rich AsiansCrazy Rich Asians
Kevin Kwan

 

Finding Audrey book coverFinding Audrey
Sophie Kinsella
The Royal We book coverThe Royal We
Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan
I Take You book coverI Take You
Eliza Kennedy

Like Stranger Things? Try My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

My Best Friend's Exorcism book coverIf you’re looking for campy horror with just enough spook to keep you on your toes but humor to break the tension, make Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism your next read. Set in small town America during the 1980s, Abby and Gretchen have been long-time best friends. Now they are in high school and Gretchen is suddenly acting strangely mean. Is it just growing up, or is she possibly possessed by a demon? Abby is on a mission to find out.

Like the hit Netflix original Stranger Things, the novel has strong elements of loyal friendship, an abundance of 1980s pop culture, and a slow build up resulting in an action packed final scene

Asked at the Desk: Who Writes Like Liane Moriarty?

Picture of Fiction/AV/Teen deskAn increasingly popular question at the Fiction/AV/Teen Services desk this summer:

Liane Moriarty is a favorite, but I’ve read everything I can find by her.
Do you know any similar authors I could try while I’m waiting for her newest?

We know that as much as you love some authors, they can’t write fast enough to keep up with you! Offering “readalikes” is one of our core services, and here is a sampling of books we’ve suggested to Moriarty fans to great success.


The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

At a festive barbecue in a Melbourne suburb, a man slaps the child of another couple, triggering a court case and a variety of confrontations within the lives of the families and friends present.

Why this? Multiple perspectives relate a typical neighborhood experience in which something has gone horribly wrong. Sound familiar?


The Year We Turned Forthy book cover
The Year We Turned Forty by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

Three best friends discover the chance to return to the year they turned forty — the year that altered each of their lives — and also get the opportunity to change their future.

Why this? Though lighter in tone than Moriarty’s stories, the exploration of both the road not taken and how our choices define us will resonate with fans of “what if” narratives.

Us by David NichollsUs book cover

What is it that holds marriages and families together? What happens, and what do we learn about ourselves, when everything threatens to fall apart? Those questions provide the frame for a mild-mannered man who isn’t willing to give up on a life that includes his wife and son.

Why this? It’s not only female authors who balance flawed characters, complex relationships, and those times in which we weigh whether our lives are what we thought they’d be.

PreschooledPreschooled book cover by Anna Lefler

In a darkly humorous story, three characters struggle to find some peace of mind among wealthy parents in a bizarre competition involving their kids. Even while commenting on the over-privilege that allows worry over the trivial, each character is presented with a degree of sympathy and humanity that parents will recognize.

Why this? One of Moriarty’s sharpest themes is skewering middle and aspiring upper class society, especially when it comes to parenting, and this matches both target and tone.

Belong to MeBelong to Me book cover by Marisa de los Santos

Everyone has secrets. While Cornelia gains unexpected insight into her troubled marriage, Piper finds her carefully controlled life unraveling in the wake of a friend’s crisis, and Lake tells a complex series of lies to gain her son’s entry into a school for gifted students.

Why this? This is a thoughtful, layered look at different women struggling to accept the roles in which they find themselves and to navigate family relationships under stress.

More Like Her by Liza PalmerMore Like Her book cover

When Emma Dunham, the woman they believe is the height of female perfection, is murdered by her husband, Francis, Lisa and Jill discover that things aren’t always what they seem, which forces them to come to terms with the secrets of their own lives.

Why this? Secrets, lies, and consequences are favorite themes for Moriarty, as is the idea that what we think we know of others’ lives is often far from the reality.

 

 

If you’ve gulped down this list and want still more, or if you have another bookish question, ask online or stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen desk on the second floor. We’d be excited to connect you with something to fit your mood!

Book Discussion Questions: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove book coverTitle:  A Man Called Ove
Author:  Fredrik Backman
Page Count: 337 pages
Genre: Fiction, Humorous
Tone:  Quirky, Character-focused

Summary:
A curmudgeon hides a terrible personal loss beneath a cranky and short-tempered exterior while clashing with new neighbors, a boisterous family whose chattiness and habits lead to unexpected friendship.

 

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2016 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. The title of the book is A Man Called Ove. How do you define masculinity or what makes a “man”?

2. If the author had used a woman as the lead character aka “A Woman Called Ovina”, would that have worked for you?  Why or why not?

3. Do you recall the opening chapter (A man Called Ove buys a computer that is not a computer)?  How did these few pages set your expectations for the novel?

4. Ove has several rants throughout the novel.  Be honest, did you ever channel your inner Ove and find yourself agreeing with any of them? If so what resonated with you? Some examples of his rants: people driving in places clearly marked no cars allowed, the lanky one having such a hard time backing up his trailer, people paying everything on credit, and service charges for credit card purchases.

5. How do you feel about Backman’s use of alternating the present and past to tell the story? Do you think this is more or less effective than if he had told the story from a strictly chronological view?

6. An unfortunate character in Ove’s past was Tom.  Tom stole and Ove took the fall.  What did you think of Ove when he refused to name Tom as the thief??

7. Thanks to Tom, Ove was ultimately shifted to the night shift which is how he met Sonja.  “All roads lead to something you were always pre-destined to do” (pg. 79).  What do you think of this statement?

8. Ove is a completely honest man, yet when he first met Sonja he lied about himself.  Why?

9. What drew Ove and Sonja to each other?

10. Sonja described loving someone, like moving into a house “At first you fall in love with all the new things, amazed every morning that all this belongs to you… over the years, the walls become weathered, the wood splinters here and there and you start to love that house not so much because of all its perfection but rather for its imperfections”.  What are your thoughts?

11. We learn that Sonja and Ove lose their unborn child.  What kind of father do you believe Ove would have been?

12. What did you think of Ove’s visits with his wife?

13. If you were to have an “Ove” in your life, do you think he would be the type of person you could be married to or have as a friend?

14. Once Ove is forcibly retired, he plans to “retire” himself?  Why do you think Ove wants to kill himself?  Do his suicide attempts reconcile to the type of man he is?

15. What did you think about his various attempts?

16. What did you think about Ove’s relationship with Cat?

17. The driving force of the story is Ove’s relationship with Parvenah. What do you think drew Parvenah to Ove and vice-versa?

18. One of my favorite passages was discussing Ove and Sonja.  He was a man of black and white and she was color, all the color he had.  Yet when Nasanin drew him she drew everyone else in black and white and Ove in a rainbow of color.  Parvenah said she always drew Ove that way.  What do you think Backman was trying to say?

19. Backman discusses the rift in Ove and Rune’s friendship on pg. 245 “Maybe their sorrow over children that never came should have brought the two men closer.  But sorrow is unreliable in that way. When people don’t share it there’s a good chance that it will drive them apart instead”. Do you agree with this? Why or why not?

20. What do you think about the ending of the book?

21. What do you think of Ove’s persona at the beginning of the book versus his persona at the end of the book?

22. Fredrik Backman calls this book a fable.  If that is true, what would the moral of this book be for you?

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

OTHER RESOURCES:

Reading guide from Lit Lovers’
A book club’s experience discussing Ove
Interview with Fredrik Backman
Books on the Table interview with Fredrik Backman
BBC Radio 4 talks to Backman (audio)

READALIKES:

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The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
There Must Be Some Mistake by Frederick Barthelme
The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass

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