The next part of starting a book club is to discuss the book! The leader/moderator can never assume that club members have eagerly read the month’s selected book and anxiously await their opportunity to discuss its finer points.
In our three-year tenure, one lady from the subdivision book club has never failed to hold up her end of the discussion. After openly admitting that reading time has been limited that month and she hasn’t finished the book, once again, she plunges full steam into the conversation.
Even after three book clubs and six years or more of participation, one can never predict the twists, turns and outcome of a book club discussion. On occasion an exchange of ideas can get noisy. A reader, who detests weak women characters, can drown out opposing views by speaking in a loud voice. This same lady has been known to repeatedly strike the table when emphasizing her point of view.
Needless to say, most book club moderators find it helpful (myself included) to circulate discussion questions prior to the monthly meeting. Questions in hand, give the leader a means to direct or steer the discussion: “Has everyone commented on question #3? Can we move ahead to #4?”
With the ever-growing popularity of book clubs, publishing houses have begun to include suggested discussion questions in the back of some novels. Several web sites furnish questions also.
Additional questions are listed below which more closely examine the characters and their motivations. Use any or all of these questions, if they meet the needs of your group. If you need help composing questions specifically for your group, please be sure to contact me.
1. Given Juliet’s track record with men, did she make the right choice in the end? What characteristics would Juliet deem necessary in a potential life partner?
2. Describe London’s living conditions in 1946. How did these dilapidated surroundings affect the inhabitants? Juliet? How and why did the book tour raise her spirits?
3. A typical meeting of the ‘Guernsey Literary Society’ would find each member talking about a different book. But once two participants had read the same book, they would argue its merits. How does this format compare with your book club meetings? Do you all read the same book? Different books in the same genre? Do you argue?
4. Eben Ramsey, a fisherman, remembers fondly the following line from Shakespeare, “The bright day is done and we are for the night.” Is this quote a metaphor for the five years of Nazi occupation on the island of Guernsey? Explain.
5. What was Adelaide Addison’s motive in writing the two letters to Juliet? Could she have been jealous of the group’s camaraderie? Would Adelaide have joined the reading group if asked? Why or Why Not?
6. Even though the character, Elizabeth McKenna, never appears in the novel, she is an integral figure. What purpose does her character serve? Is she more important to the story than any of the other literary society participants? More important than Juliet? Why?
7. While renting and living in Elizabeth’s cottage, Juliet senses the other woman’s presence so much that she comments, “It’s odd, I suppose, to mourn so for someone you never met.” Is this possible? Was Juliet unconsciously trying to fill the void left by Elizabeth’s imprisonment and death? Consciously?
8. Which, if any, of the books mentioned in the novel have you read? Give a short synopsis of that book to your friends.
(‘Wuthering Heights, The Pickwick Papers, Jane Eyre, Letters to Seneca, David Copperfield, The Secret Garden, Essays of Elia, Pride and Prejudice, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, The Canterbury Tales’)
9. “Good will isn’t enough, is it?” Dawsey Adams asked himself during Remy’s visit to the island. What were his and Amelia’s intentions in visiting the 24-year-old girl and later bringing her to the island? Who was glad that the visit was a short one? Who was sad?
10. What measures did the Guernsey residents adopt to survive during the war years of 1940-1945? Would you have had the stamina to withstand such deprivation?
11. Choose one of the members of the literary society with which to discuss a book. Who would you choose? Which book? Why?
12. Characterize the relationship between Juliet, Sophie and Sidney. Do they really care for one another? Who receives the most benefits from their friendship? How do you know?
13. A book can be a friend, a companion, a source of entertainment. What place does the book occupy in the lives of the Guernsey Islanders? Your life?
Next: Another book of letters, ’84 Charing Cross Road.’