READERS GUIDEThe questions, discussion topics, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of The Pier Falls, a dazzling and diverse short story collection from Mark Haddon.
IntroductionThe stories that make up The Pier Falls take many forms—Victorian adventure, science fiction, morality tale, contemporary realism—but they are united by the talent and empathy that have made Mark Haddon a household name. Lyrical and uncompromising, these tales span from England to Mars, Ancient Greece to the deepest Amazon. Drawing inventively from history, myth, folklore, and modern life, The Pier Falls reveals a previously unseen side of the celebrated author.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. The Pier Falls gathers inspiration from history, myth, folktales and modern life. What was your favorite story and what do you think inspired it?
2. Why do you think The Pier Falls was chosen as the first and title story?
3. “She crouches on the hard, wet stones and hugs herself. No one has any idea that she is here except the crew of the departing ship. She does not know the name of this island…. She is off the heart’s map and her compass is spinning.” The Pier Falls is filled with imagery—what sticks out most in your memory, after reading all of the stories?
4. “Bunny” begins with a list: ‘He loved Mars bars and KitKats. He loved Double Deckers and Galaxy Caramels and Yorkies. He loved Reese’s Pieces and…” What was your favorite start to a story in this collection? What is the opener for your favorite short story of all time? What makes a great opening line?
5. Christmas, bad weather and family: the story “Wodwo” claims “a family Christmas is a guaranteed generator of unease.” Do you agree?
6. “The Gun” is a coming of age story set in 1972. What do you think it says about childhood in the 70s verses how we perceive childhood today?
7. How did the setting for “The Woodpecker and The Wolf” affect your reading of the story?
8. Haddon makes a lot of reference to culture: from movies and actors to books (like how Carl Sagan’s Cosmos was featured in “Breathe,” as were the works of Dan Brown, throughout the stories). Did this help you relate to and learn about characters? What character did you connect with the most?
9. How did your own fear and anticipation factor into your reading of “The Boys Who Left Home to Learn Fear”?
10. In the final story, “The Weir,” the final word was “wasteland.” How do you feel this fits for the themes of the collection? Did you feel optimism in the emotional power of The Pier Falls?
11. Which story did you connect to the most and why?