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Live a Little Reader’s Guide

By Howard Jacobson

Live a Little by Howard Jacobson


1. Beryl Dusinbery is losing her memory and Shimi Carmelli can’t forget anything. How do these traits shape their characters?

2. How does reading the Princess’s diaries influence your understanding of her as a person? Is she a reliable narrator?

3. Why do you think Shimi is so drawn to cartomancy and fortune-telling? What does it offer him?

4. Everyone has a story they believe about their own life, whether it’s true or not. How have the stories Beryl tells about herself influenced who
    she has become? And how has Shimi’s narrative influenced his life?

5. How did you feel reading a book with two elderly protagonists? Did it remind you of anything you’ve read before? Did you find any 
    stereotypes being challenged?

6. In what ways is Ephraim a foil to Shimi? In your opinion, what causes the brothers to become estranged?

7. What does Shimi’s childhood “incident” represent for him? Why can’t he get past it?

8. In what ways do the characters and events in Live a Little challenge conventional notions of masculinity, maternity, and aging?

9. Discuss the ways parents and their behavior ended up influencing their children in the novel.

10. What drew Shimi to Beryl, and vice versa? How do the two characters complement each other?
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