Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. The attempt to achieve perfection is central to the behavior of both Diana and Byron Hemmings. Has the novel changed your perception of what it may mean to be “perfect”?
2. The author portrays time as a slippery and unpredictable con- cept. Has this affected your attitude toward the ways in which we measure the paths of our lives?
3. Responsibility is a theme that plays a key part in the novel. Who do you believe holds the greatest responsibility for the accident?
Is Jim’s mental illness the inevitable result of the events of his childhood, or do you think it would have occurred no matter what?
4. Is Jim’s mental illness the inevitable result of the events of his childhood, or do you think it would have occurred no matter what?
5. Diana says,“I’m beginning to think chaos is underrated.” Do you agree?
6. Byron identifies the moment at which he no longer considers himself to be a child. How does the novel question traditional definitions of childhood and parenthood?
7. The author writes beautiful descriptions of Cranham Moor and the English landscape. What is the significance of the natural world in the novel?
8. What is the significance of class in the relationship between Diana and Beverley?
9. Several characters struggle with depression and obsessive- compulsive behavior. How effectively do you feel mental disor- ders are portrayed?
10. Diana believes that the course of her life is determined by des- tiny. What part does spiritual belief play in the novel, and do you agree that our actions cannot influence our own fates?
11. Seymour Hemmings and Andrea Lowe express strong views about feminism. How does the author represent the role of women in the novel?
12. How does the author create the different time periods of the novel? Are there echoes from 1972 in the present or is it a world and time that has disappeared without a trace?
13. Diana is lonely despite having a family and friends; Jim also experiences intense loneliness. What do you think makes people feel connected to one another, and what creates fulfilling rela- tionships?
14. Byron and James Lowe are best friends as boys, and the employ- ees at Mr. Meade’s café form bonds of kinship. How does the author represent friendship, and what do you think it means to be a true friend?
15. Who is the most powerful character in the novel, and why?
16. Eileen and Jim are damaged, in different ways, by their pasts. To what extent do you feel that their private pain is transformed through the act of sharing?