ICE Breakers


Why do you think Hana devotes herself to look after the Englishman?

Why is the Englishman drawn to the desert and its landscape?

Hana adores the Englishman.  Do you think the Englishman is a likeable individual and would you trust him?

Do you find Kip’s loyalty to the British cause credible?

Do you think all four characters are misfits or victims/survivors of war?

Katherine’s death is tragic – how do you think her death affects The Englishman?

Do you think the simplicity of their lives in San Girolamo Villa enhances their story?

This book was awarded 2018 Golden Booker – do you agree it is a worthy winner?



How many of the family dynamics rang true to you?

Could you relate to the strain in Andrew and Emma's relationship?

Could you understand how easy it is to maintain a wall of silence of suffering and acceptance over a period of time? 

Every character has their individual secret  - do you think a forced period of confinement would always uncover the truth?

Did you find this a heartwarming story?



Love? Stuff and Nonsense!” my mother would say.  Do you think Elizabeth Smart feels isolated in her love?

Do you think this book is more like a work of art?

Can you relate to the vulnerability of the writer?

Do you imagine that the intensity of her love is reciprocated?

Do you think this kind of intense love can ever be practical, or the norm for most people?

Are you envious of the depth of Elizabeth’s feelings of love?

Do you think love is one of the primary driving forces of life?



This novel has been compared to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird - do you agree?

Why do you think the author maintains the anonymity of the narrator? 

This book is about the power of memory and the consequences of keeping a childhood secret.  Do you think everyone has childhood secrets they would like to reveal but can't?

Why do you think the narrator was unable to comfort Lindy at the time?

Do you think Lindy forgave the narrator?  Do you think he forgave himself?

The author spends a section on the relationship between Baton Rouge and New Orleans - did you find this section interesting and do you think it added to the story?

Do you think the narrator ever really know Lindy?

Despite the serious subject matter, the novel never feels dark - would you agree and if so, how do you think the author achieves this?

my dark vanessa

Russell admits that reading Lolita had a huge impact on her and she still reads the book regularly.  Why do you think Lolita had such a powerful and meaningful influence on the author?

The author references Monica Lewinsky as someone who tried to hold her head high through the humiliating questions she endured.  Do you think this is an interesting comparison with Vanessa’s willingness to stand by Strane?

There is one time when Vanessa lets her guard down and tells her college professor that she was raped by a teacher at high school.  She is immediately shocked by what she views as a lie, although does admit she doesn’t know if she is lying or just telling the truth.  Do you think Vanessa was raped?

Why do you think Strane gives Vanessa a copy of Lolita and why do you think Vanessa treasures it for so many years?

Do you think Vanessa is empowered by her relationship with Strane?

Do you think there are autobiographical elements to this story?

Do you think Oprah was right to not include this book in her club?



Do you think it believable that Tomas would have not have tried to prove his innocence in Oxford?

Do you think that Tomas could have got out of being a spy earlier on his life?

Were you surprised that Berta remained so self-contained about Tomas’s life choice?

Do you think people are still recruited at Oxford and Cambridge for espionage work today?

Do you think Marias is asking us if the sacrifice Bert and Isla made were worth it?



Do you think some of the characters are too stereotypical? Is Alix too much of a caricature?

Could you sympathise with Alix’s intentions at all as she tries to help Emira?

Were you frustrated by Emira’s lack of career drive or did you find her willingness to be her own self refreshing?

Do you think there are men like Kelly who seem to consistently date ethnically minority women and why do you think this is the case?

Do you think Alix’s husband should have had more of a role in the story?

Do you think such a ‘misunderstanding’ would happen in a late supermarket in the UK?

Did you like Briar?  Do you think that she is perhaps the hero of the story?



Which was your favourite story and why?

Do you think there is something existential about each story?

Do you think these stories are modern interpretations of today’s lonely society and with the current experiences of isolation, do they now have an added impetus?

Did you think some of the stories ended too abruptly?

What continual themes did you discover in the stories?

What do you think these stories tell us about the modern man?

Do you think that the women are more powerful than the men in these stories?



Were you surprised at just how innocent Franz was when he arrives in Vienna?

How do you think Seethaler balances the seriousness of the politics with the mundaneness of ordinary life?

Do you think Franz was really in love with Anezka?

Were you surprised by how ordinary people seemed to become so radicalised so quickly?

How did it make you feel when the frail elderly Freud and his family board the train for London?

How do you think Seethaler makes the conversations between Freud and Franz seem so believable?

Were you surprised that this young man, who seems so unaware of what is going on around him, behaves as he does towards the end of the story?


book of the moment

Were you surprised to discover such bigamy existed and can having two families ever work?

What were your feelings towards James as both a husband and a father to his daughters?

Did you favour one sister over the other?

Do you think Dana thought things would change if Chaurisse and her mother knew about his other family?

Why do you think Gwen never looks for someone else to share her life with?

Why do you think Raleigh sticks by James throughout the years, particularly at the end?

Do you think Raleigh’s betrayal has as much to do with Gwen’s final actions as James’s bigamy?

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