Questions for Discussion
1. Emmeline Truelove is a liminal character, having lived most of her life in the space between social classes and gender norms. How do you think this experience is reflected in her personality?
2. Emmeline interacts frequently with characters who do not exist, which she describes as ghosts—of Queen Victoria, of her father, and of King Edward VII. How do you interpret these experiences? Are they really ghosts, or figments of her imagination? Why do they appear in the book, and what role do they play?
3. Emmeline’s “father” suggests that she and Silverton are attracted to each other because they both wear masks that hide their true selves. Do you think this is true? What masks do they wear, and why? How would you describe Emmeline’s true self, and Silverton’s?
4. In effect, there are two “selkie” stories taking place in the book, and two possible “selkies”—Helen and Emmeline. Which character do you think is the basis for the Sinclair family legend, and which one for the tale in The Book of Time? Or are they both some combination of the two? Why do you think the author has structured the story in this way?
5. Helen has led an eventful life, both in the modern day and the past. Do you think her happiness with Magnus is enough to overcome her grief over losing her son and her familiar world, to say nothing of modern conveniences? How do you think you would react to being flung into a previous century? Setting aside emotional connections, do you think you’d be happier in the past?
6. How has the treatment of women changed over the years, from medieval Europe to the early twentieth century to today? How do you think Emmeline and Helen dealt with these differences?
7. Do you believe in time travel? What time period would you most like to experience if you could? What do you think can be learned from time travel? How do you think it influences Emmeline’s view of the world?
8. Has Hunter been punished for his bad deeds? What do you think has happened to him?
9. The author leaves some questions unanswered, and the conclusion of the book suggests a possible new fate for Emmeline. What do you think happens to her when she puts on her twentieth-century dress? Do you think this is a happy ending for Emmeline?