BOOKCLUB QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

MATADORA

Try to pinpoint each character's definition of "art"? What makes their "art" art? Would you agree? Why or why not?

1. When asked to choose political sides, Luna responds "'I'm only interested in circles,' Luna said. 'Not in lines.'" Besides the bullring, what other circles might have Luna been thinking of?

2. What is Luna's greatest desire? What is her greatest fear?

3. What was your favourite moment/scene/line in Matadora?

4. Who was the most memorable character? Why?

5. Why do you think Luna chose the chance to fight on foot over Grace, her "match"? Would you have chosen differently or done the same as Luna?

6. How was it that Luna and Marisol were able to overcome their differences and become friends?

7. How do you think Don Carlos's death affected Pedro?

8. What is your opinion on the idea that the lines between love and ambition were blurred in this novel?

9. Why was Luna against Manuel being a fighter when her profession is also as violent?

10. What causes Manuel to abandon his poetry for violence and bloodshed?

11. Do Armando and Paqui's deaths affect Luna in the same way? How or how not?

12. Luck is frequently mentioned close to or after the bullfights in the novel. Do you think luck has anything to do with the way Luna and the other characters's lives played out? Was it blind luck, fate, or did the character's create their own destinies? How would you fit the ending of the novel into this belief "luck," good or bad?

13. Matadora is a carefully structured novel that has been organized into three acts. Why do you think the author conceived of the novel in this way? How do the three acts relate to the practice of bullfighting?

14. At a time when women were forbidden to fight bulls on foot in Spain, what drives the protagonist in Matadora to defy convention and break the law?

15. Grace, the Canadian who drives one of Bethune's mobile transfusion units on the front, believes bullfighting to be cruel and that it ought to be banned. How are her objections to the corrida different from the animal rights arguments presented by Spaniard's?

16. The scene in Matadora where Luna stands before a mirror in her suit of lights is pivotal. What do you think the thematic significance of costuming and mirrors is to this novel? How has the author used the suit of lights to play with issues of gender and sex expression?

17. Why won't Luna publicly ally herself with Manuel and the resistance? What is the author trying to say about ambition and power?

18. Despite being set in 1930s Spain and Mexico, Matadora is a novel that strongly appeals to a contemporary reader. Why do you think that is? Did the author create a mirror for our times? If so, in what ways does Spain in the 1930s resemble contemporary life?

19. For Luna, love and death are intimately connected. What informs her notion of love, and does this notion shift over the course of the novel? How do we know?

20. What does Luna's relationship with Paqui say about mothering? How has the author (re)defined family in this novel? Can you think of three examples where biology is not the determining factor?

21. The author uses the recurring image of a circle – whether it is a white stone wall surrounding a ranch house or the image of a clock to describe the bullring. How does the image of a circle connect to the larger themes being explored in this book?

 

SMOKE

1. SMOKE is a carefully structured novel that has been organized into four sections: Prime, Tie and Cure; Bills Come Due; Seed, Plant and Pray; and Maturation. Why do you think the author conceived of the novel in this way? How do the sections relate to the protagonist’s life and to the plot in general?

2. SMOKE chronicles a forgotten culture – that of tobacco growing pre-automation. Setting and sense of place are integral to the novel. How does the setting enhance the story?

3. What is the significance of the title of this book?

4. What function does the back-story about Prohibition and the Purple Gang serve in this novel? How does it enhance and develop Buster’s storyline? Doc John’s? Their friendship?

5. Despite its 1950s setting, SMOKE is a novel that strongly appeals to a contemporary reader. Why do you think that is? What do you think the author was trying to say to her readers about identity and self-determination?

6. Many of the secondary characters in SMOKE are outsiders in some way. For example, Jelly Bean, Isabel, Susan, Walter, Alice. Even Tom McFiddie. How so?

7. The scene in SMOKE where Doc John crosses the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, is a pivotal scene in many ways. What do you think the thematic significance of bridges, borders and boundaries is to this novel?

8. In SMOKE, imagination and storytelling are central means by which Doc John and Buster come to understand themselves and to communicate with the world around them. Why does Doc John tell stories? What impact do they have on Buster? Does their function change over the course of the novel for Doc John? For Buster?

9. At what point did the author reveal Doc John’s full identity? Were there clues before this moment? What were they? Why would the author decide not to show Doc John’s early life?

10. What purpose does the back-story of the local bandit serve in this novel? Why would the author end the novel with the scene that she does?

TEN GOOD SECONDS OF SILENCE

1. Discuss the various perspectives on mental health presented within Ten Good Second of Silence. What questions do they raise? How are Mrs. Moffat, Randy, and Lilith different in their outlook and experience? How has the author used Lilith's profession as a psychic to explore the concept of psychotic?

2. Ten Good Seconds of Silence is a carefully structured novel, revolving around two interconnected plot lines. Of these plots, is there one that is of central importance? Why has the author used both first and third person narration?

3. Why can't Lilith find Benjamin? What is the author trying to say about memory and identity?

4. Lemon grows up without knowing her biological father, and instead creates a perfect version in her mind. Why then, at the end, does she make the choices that she does? What is the author trying to suggest about family? What is Lemon's relationship to Randy?

5. There are many versions of love presented in this novel. Discuss the examples you noticed. What is the author trying to say about unconditional love?

6. When does the title, Ten Good Seconds of Silence appear in the novel? What is the significance?

 

 

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