The Questions You Need: Free Book Club Discussion Guides

Travels With George Book Club Treats

NEW IN 2022! Thanks for stopping by. We love reading good books together.There are so many reasons why.

Can you imagine reading 250+ books with your friends? Maybe you’d do it if you had a discussion guide. I’ll share our Piquant page-Turner discussion guides here. You’ll find the most recent discussion guides on top. Just scroll down for earlier guides. Joy in the pages!

Karen outdid herself with the Washington theme.

Brat Farrar (3/2022)

Josephine Tey

1. Do you like mysteries? Why or why not? What’s your favorite?

2. Author Robert Barnard writes that Brat occupies “the hinterland between the crime novel and the novel proper. Impersonation has been at the heart of many detective stories, but it has seldom carried the emotional charge of Brat Farrar, and our sympathies are never in a mere puzzle so skillfully and so surprisingly manipulated.” Do you agree that Tey is a master of “loving characterisation; and above all, control of reader sympathies”? 

3. Where did you feel your sympathy being played? Did you think that perhaps Brat/Patrick was the real thing and had somehow forgotten his former identity? 

4. What finally convinced Brat to impersonate Patrick Ashby? Discuss: belonging. (Refer to pp. 149, 158, 226) 

5. Were there holes in the plot, “like the contrivance of having the dental records destroyed in the Blitz” that distracted you from the story line? Or did you say that “the wonderful prose, with its descriptions of the landscape, spot-on dialogue and lively characterizations” had you “sailing through with great pleasure”? 

6. A wrong word or a forgotten memory could bring everything crashing down: What wrong words or memories slipped out of Brat (p. 201- “coolee”)? Did you feel the tension? Where did you most feel the suspense? Why was Simon so tense at his meeting with Brat (p. 105)? Simon’s test with the toy horse, “Travesty by Irish Peasant out of Bog Oak” (p. 117)? 

7. Which characters did you like and dislike the most? Why? Characters: Alec Loding, Bee, Brat, Simon, Eleanor, Jane, Ruth, Rector George, Gregg, Peggy, Sheila Parslow (Bee: p. 69)

8. Discuss impersonation. How far-fetched is this? How about 75 years ago compared to now?

9. Brat said Timber the horse reminded him of Simon (p. 158). Have you likened people to animals? As an aside, which Winnie the Pooh character are you most like? 

10. What role do the horses play in the book (p. 83)? How about horse breeding and lineage? “They’re not overly romanticized, seen through a soft-focus lens; horses can be a right pain in the rump just like any other creatures, and are a chancy entity to pin your living onto; they can sicken and die or fail to live up to expectations – or kill.” (From Stewartry)

11. Did you ever laugh? How about Tony riding past the judges upside down (p. 229)? 

12. Did the ending satisfy? Why or why not?

TRAVELS WITH GEORGE (2/2022)

Nathaniel Philbrick

“We do not take a trip; a trip takes us…”

John Steinbeck

1. Have you ever taken a historical trip? Do you prefer self or expert guided? If you haven’t, would you like to go? If you have, would you share a highlight? (Would you travel with your dog?)

2. Would you like the sort of work Philbrick did: to interview librarians and historic home owners and read primary source documents? 

3. From 1-5 stars, how would you rate this book? What did you most enjoy? What could you do without? 

4. What did you think of all the rabbit trails? Can you share any tangents that you enjoyed? (E.g., Dentures/Teeth, p. 16, 19; Longleaf pines, 211; Mother Mary’s Gingerbread, 196; Mules p. 14)

5. Why did Washington take these tours (map on p. xv)? Was his mission accomplished? Explain. 

6. What did you learn about Washington as a man— “only a man,” but a punctual man (p. 250): 

  1. How did he travel, in terms of his carriage, his entourage, and his lodging? What questions do you have about the nitty-gritty of travel? 
  2. Why did he wear a brown suit at inauguration but a military uniform off the leopard skin saddle pad and white horse Prescott on most of his tour stops?
  3. Why did he stay only in taverns and not with rich friends? Hancock (p. 96) does not greet Washington in Boston, will not go to dinner at his house, since he did not greet Washington first. 
  4. Discuss: For Washington, everything was precedent setting. He was both a man of the people and a strong commander, above the common man. A President wants it both ways. Yet, he moved from “His Excellency” to “The President.” He is “only a man” (p. 108) is a recurrent theme. How was he in a no-win situation? (p. 277) 

7. What did you learn about the slavery, and the complexities involved with it, at the founding of our country? What did you learn about Washington’s complicated relationship with slaves? For example, how did marrying the widow Martha impact him?  (Read aloud pp. 304-5.) 

8. Discuss Washington’s tours (p. 295) and the receptions he received in different towns.  Which would you have enjoyed the most (e.g., 262- “gaining flesh” on the southern tour)? 

9. Discuss this quote from Philbrick: History cannot be pigeon-holed into good guys/bad guys. Washington was a paradox. He wills to free his servants, even as he tracks down runaway slave, Ona Judge. We are all victims of our own times. (Pp.. 171, 17) 

10. What would you like modern leaders to learn from George Washington’s tours? How would you like to imitate him? For example, how was he a model of servant leadership?