Reading Group Guide
By Philippa Gregory
Reading Group Discussion Guide
Beatrice Lacey, as strong-minded as she is beautiful, refuses to conform to the social customs of her time. Destined to lose her family name and beloved Wideacre estate once she is wed, Beatrice will use any means necessary to protect her ancestral heritage. Seduction, betrayal, even murder -- Beatrice's passion is without apology or conscience. "She is a Lacey of Wideacre," her father warns, "and whatever she does, however she behaves, will always be fitting." Yet even as Beatrice's scheming seems about to yield her dream, she is haunted by the one living person who knows the extent of her plans...and her capacity for evil.
Sumptuously set in Georgian England, Wideacre is intensely gripping, rich in texture, and full of color and authenticity. It is a saga as irresistible in its singular magic as its heroine.
1. "I am a Lacey of Wideacre, and my place is on the land!" How does Beatrice's devotion to her family's land enable her, at a very early age, to assume an untraditional role in her family? How does her mother feel about Beatrice's being raised with these liberties, and what informs her attitudes toward her daughter?
2. What role does the English law of primogeniture, in which the eldest son inherits the family land, play in Beatrice's feelings about Wideacre? How do the consequences of this law affect her emotional connection with her father?
3. How does the budding romance between Beatrice and Ralph threaten some of the unspoken codes of social class in Wideacre? To what extent do you think Beatrice's attraction to Ralph is driven by this blurring of boundaries?
4. How does Harry's return to Wideacre alter the balance of power in the Lacey household, and how does his friendship and physical attraction to Ralph change the nature of Beatrice and Ralph's relationship?
5. "There is a way to stay here and be the lady of Wideacre...It is a long and crooked way, but we win the land and the pleasure." How does Ralph and Beatrice's plot to retain Wideacre for themselves forever change the course of their lives? How does their mutual decision affect Beatrice's family?
6. How would you describe the connection that develops between Beatrice and her brother, Harry? How does their incestuous love complicate the nature of Wideacre's ownership?
7. "Wideacre is changing and the way we have to farm is changing." How does Beatrice's plan of enclosure of the common of Wideacre affect her reputation among the farmers and people of Acre? To what extent does this agricultural innovation represent a change to the existing social order between the working people and the Quality?
8. Why does Beatrice agree to Dr. John MacAndrew's proposal of marriage? In what ways does their marriage enable her to fulfill her dream of keeping Wideacre in her family?
9. What are some of the social expectations that the women of Wideacre (Lady Lacey, Beatrice, Celia, and Julia) must accommodate? To what extent are these expectations limiting or oppressive? How do these expectations enable them to fulfill their destinies as mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters?
10. "Only I knew what it had cost me, what it had cost Wideacre, what it had cost Acre village to get us to this point where the way was clear for my son." What are some of the costs -- the casualties -- of Beatrice Lacey MacAndrew's quest to keep Wideacre in her hands? In the grand scheme of the novel, do all of Beatrice's decisions seem in keeping with her single-minded desire to maintain her family's land forever?
ENHANCE YOUR BOOK CLUB
1. Do you want to know more about Philippa Gregory and the creation of Wideacre? Visit the author's personal website: http://www.philippagregory.com/index.shtml to read more about the historical underpinnings of the book, and to listen to an interview.
2. Visit http://www.britainexpress.com/History/Georgian_index.htm to learn more about the actual historical events in England during the milieu in which Wideacre is set.
3. If you have a passion for historical fiction, and you'd like to learn more about the genre and get some recommendations for further reading, visit http://www.historicalnovelsociety.org/, where you can read reviews of current historical novels, or become a member and share notes with other fans of these novels.