Book Club Kits
by Nicholls, David
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1. What determines the path Emma follows in her post-university years? In addition to being a wonderfully comic interlude, how does her stint with Sledgehammer Theater Cooperative enrich the portrait of the time in which the novel is set? Is Emma's explanation of why she ended up working at the tacky Mexican restaurant
"there was a recession on and people were clinging to their jobs. . . . the government had ended student grants [p. 56]" honest? Have circumstances and the city defeated her or is she responsible for her own plight?
2. Does Dexter's meteoric rise in television change the fundamental dynamics between Dexter and Emma? What aspects of their relationship remain unchanged? What influences the things they say and, perhaps more importantly, what they don't say, during their afternoon on Primrose Hill [p. 60-72]? Were you surprised to find them vacationing together in Greece the following year? Who is more aware of and affected by the sexual tensions and temptations they both experience?
3. At twenty-seven, Emma wonders if she is getting old [p. 115]. Do Emma's feelings about both the satisfactions and regrets that come with being grown-up ring true? What explains Emma's relationship with Ian? Is she willingly deceiving herself (and Ian)? Despite her impatience with him and his desperately unfunny comedy routines, does she have genuine feelings for Ian?
4. At the disastrous dinner on July 15, 1995, Emma declares, Dexter, I love you so much. . . . and I probably always will. I just don't like you any more. I'm sorry [p. 210]. Does Dexter recognize why his behavior leads to this break? Does he care? Could the dinner have ended differently?
5. When he meets Sylvie Cope, Dexter thinks, And yet, despite all this, the downturn in professional fortunes, he is fine now, because he has fallen in love with Sylvie, beautiful Sylvie. . . . [p. 251]. In what ways does the affair open Dexter's eyes to new possibilities and a different way of life? What flaws in their relationship does he fail to grasp fully and why? What consequences does this have on the course of their marriage?
6. What does the rendezvous in Paris share with Emma and Dexter's trip to Greece nine years earlier? What impact does Emma's success as an author and Dexter's failed marriage have on the balance of power between them? Discuss the factors, including age, their individual circumstances, and the length of their friendship, that contribute to their willingness to be more honest and open with each other.
7. How well does the novel capture society and culture over the twenty-year period? What specific details (references to books, television programs, political events, etc.) help bring the different periods to life? In what ways do the characters embody the qualities, good and bad, of their generation?
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