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Reading guide for Beverly Swerling's SHADOWBROOK
1. SHADOWBROOK is a sweeping epic of the French and Indian War and the way it changed the lives of the American and Canadian colonists, as well as marking the beginning of the end of the traditional life of the Native Americans known as the Eastern Woodland Tribes. How were you brought into the story? Were you surprised that the book began with the Poor Clare nuns and their physical penance? Did you find the practice shocking? Did you see that as in any way connected to the unfolding story of the brutality of war, and the different cultures of the colonials and the Indians?
2. Look at the book's narrative style and the use of interior monologue as narration. What affect does this have on the reader? On the story? Why does a writer employ these devices? How does a love story figure into a book of historical fiction? What affect does Nicole and Quent's relationship have on the story - is it a catalyst or backstory or what? 2. Were you surprised to learn about slavery in the North, and the existence of the patents, in other words, the northern plantations? After the Huron renegades attacked, did you think Quent should have stayed and helped them save Shadowbrook and all that it meant to his family? Was he right to choose instead to go after Solomon the Barrel Maker? Would you have done that?
3. Did you understand the feeling of the Indians about what they called "Bridge People." Do you think the history of Native Americans in our country would have been different if a divide such as the one Quent and Cormac tried to establish had come into being? Would it have worked? Was it fair?
4. The book's main characters are Quent, Cormac and Nicole, all of one generation. In what ways are they like the generation that preceded them, represented by the characters of Ephraim and Lorene? Are John Hale and Hamish Campbell more alike than they are different? What about Père Antoine, the Franciscan, and Louis Roget, the Jesuit?
5. SHADOWBROOK is rich in minor characters and their stories. Did you enjoy Swerling's wide canvas, or find it confusing? Besides a name, how does the author assist the reader with character recognition? Could you "hear" the voices of the different characters and did that make the story more alive for you?
6. Dreams move the story forward because they make the characters do certain things. What are the similarities between Cormac's dream and that of the Mohawk chief, Thoyanoquin? Do you think that Quent really believes in either? If not, why does he do what the dreamers ask of him?
7. Consider the different roles of women in the story. What kinds of lives are available to poor women with or without husbands? What about rich women? Do you see similarities between Lorene Hale's choices and those made by Annie Crotchett? What about Nicole's choices, or those of the abbess, Mère Marie Rose, or Marni's choices? What would you have done if you were any one of them? In the end, who do you think had the most power?
8. History says that it is because Britain won the French and Indian war that the American colonists began thinking about independence. Did this book help you understand that? Try to imagine that you are living in that time, would you have been attracted to the notion of independence?
9. What differences do you see in the way modern Canada developed vs. the United States? Do you think the history related in this story had any role in that?