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This reading group guide for Something Redincludes an introduction, discussion questions and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
A haunting blend of history, fantasy, and suspense, Something Red takes readers deep into the dark woods of thirteenth-century England, where something vicious is lurking. Hob is a boy on the verge of manhood, making his way through the woods with a small troupe: Molly, a middle-aged Irishwoman highly respected for her healing powers; Jack, her strong and silent partner; and Nemain, Molly’s granddaughter. Molly leads this adopted family and their wagons across the Pennines mountain range, but they soon come upon evidence of unmistakable evil. What kind of beast could slash and tear so gruesomely at human flesh and take out an entire inn full of robust men and the fiercest guard dogs? With fear rising in their hearts and the heavy snow beginning to fall, there is no more time to run or hide—the evil must be conquered, and in the process, long-held secrets revealed.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. The setting plays such an important part in Something Red. Discuss the ways in which time and place affect the action and plot twists in the narrative.
2. Molly and Nemain seem to have some sort of sixth sense. What are some examples of when they use this sense to determine their next move?
3. Throughout the story, Hob’s feelings about women are continually shifting. Compare his feelings towards Margery and Nemain. How do his feelings for Nemain change and evolve? Do you think the outcome of Something Red would have been different if Margery were still in the picture?
4. At several points in the novel, the main characters are seeking refuge—from the weather, from the evil being waiting to devour them. Think about where you would seek refuge in a crisis. Does the kind of hospitality shown at the monastery, the inn, and the castle exist today?
5. Many of the characters in this story are powerful in either a physical, mental, or supernatural capacity. Who do you think is the most powerful character? Why?
6. Discuss the gender roles in the novel. Are they what you would expect of English society in the thirteenth century? Why or why not?
7. In what ways do the four main characters function as a family? In what ways do they not?
8. Looking back, can you identify any instances of foreshadowing that could have revealed the Beast’s identity? Were there any other characters that you incorrectly suspected?
9. There were so many unexpected twists and turns throughout the story—what was the most shocking or surprising to you?
10. Reread the three paragraphs on page 281 beginning with: “‘Or else the sickness was in among them…”. What exactly do you think Molly means when she agrees, “Like myself”? What kind of power do you think she has?
11. Throughout the novel, Jack is the strong, silent type. He does seem to communicate with Molly, but there is a lack of dialogue on his part. Why do you think the author wrote him this way? How does his character come through in his actions?
12. Jack’s Beast physically takes down the Fox. However, how do the other characters help conquer the evil shapeshifter?
13. Discuss the ending of the story. Were you happy with where it concluded? Do you think there are unanswered questions that could be dealt with in a sequel? How would you have felt if the story ended after the Fox was slain?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. The Pennines is a low-rising mountain range, described as the “backbone” of England. To learn more and to see pictures of this historic, scenic part of England, visit: www.northpennines.org.uk.
2. Watch one of the many movies featuring werewolves and shapeshifters after your book club discussion. Consider a classic, like Werewolf of London, or a more modern take, like An American Werewolf in Paris or The Wolfman. After the viewing, compare how the shifters are presented in the movie of your choosing versus in Something Red.
3. Lady Svajone’s alternate form was that of a fox, while Jack shifted into a beastly gorilla. What do you think your animal alter-ego would be? Go around the group and decide what animal each member of your book club would turn into if they were a shapeshifter.
Douglas Nicholas is an award-winning poet, whose work has appeared in numerous poetry journals, and the author of four previous books, including Something Red and Iron Rose, a collection of poems inspired by New York City. He lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with his wife Theresa and Yorkshire terrier Tristan.