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This reading group guide for The Things We Never Said includes 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. Topics & Questions for Discussion 1. The Things We Never Said is set against two periods – the 1960s and the present day – and told from two perspectives, that of Maggie and Jonathan. What struck you most about each storyline? Which elements of each did you find most interesting? 2. Weather plays and important role in the novel. How do you feel it was used to dramatic effect and did it affect the way you felt as you read the novel? 3. The themes of the novel are all about motherhood, and what we inherit from our parents. What sense did you get of the importance of family and family history? Can we ever truly escape our pasts? And would we want to? 4. Maggie’s storyline shows the reality of life in what was then called a ‘mental asylum’. Today she would have been treated very differently in the health system. Did you think this affected the way her story turned out? Might it have been different had her treatment been different? 5. Some of the elements of the novel are based on real historical events – the storm of 1962, for example. Does the way fact and fiction was woven together bring the story more to life as you read it? What other parts did you feel were particularly realistic? 6. In terms of the events leading up to her breakdown, how important is the 1960s setting to Maggie’s story, or could the same thing happen today? 7. What do you think of the choices Gerald and Daphne made as parents? How much sympathy do you have for a) Gerald, and b) Daphne? 8. To what extent are Gerald and/or Daphne to blame for Jonathan’s anxieties? 9. Jonathan is concerned about becoming a father in his forties. Is there any justification to his fears? What advice would you give him? 10. Which of the minor characters interested you the most? Who would you have liked to know more about?
Susan Elliot Wright is the author of The Things We Never Said and The Secrets We Left Behind. She has an MA in Writing from Sheffield Hallam University, where she is now an Associate Lecturer. Find out more at www.susanelliotwright.co.uk