Tuesday, February 9, 2010


1. What does Azaire's conduct as a businessman say about his character, and what is Stephen's response to it? How does Azaire's treatment of the men who work for him reflect his treatment of his wife?

2. Does Stephen see Isabelle as a captive? Does she see herself the same way?

3. Why does Isabelle leave Stephen? How does her departure affect his identity as a soldier, the way he approaches the war, and the manner in which he conducts himself during it?

4. What premonitions of war and death does Faulks give us in the 1910 section of the book? Where and when does Stephen have visions of death within the lush beauty of prewar Picardy? Do you feel that these visions are simple premonitions, or is the predisposition to such images a part of Stephen's character?

5. How would you describe the character of Jack Firebrace? What do his letters to Margaret reveal about his character, his values, his code of behavior?

6. The soldiers tend to forget very quickly the names and characters of their friends who die. Do you find this shocking?

7. Throughout the war, Stephen feels a real hatred for the enemy. Do you believe that this hatred is genuine, or that Stephen has persuaded himself of it so as to give meaning and order to his existence? How does the fact that it is German soldiers who ultimately rescue him change his life--and theirs?

8. In the life of the trenches, Stephen reflects, "There was only violent death or life to choose between; finer distinctions, such as love, preference, or kindness, were redundant". This is Stephen's view of events, reading his story. Do you find that the soldiers have really lost their sense of finer distinctions?

9. Stephen and Weir enjoy an unlikely but intense friendship. What is it about Weir's character that makes Stephen love him more than any of the others? Does Stephen change in any way after Weir's death?

10. Elizabeth is spurred on in her research by a feeling of the "danger of losing touch with the past". Does her ignorance of recent history surprise you, or do you find it characteristic of her generation? Do you find that you, and the people around you, are similarly detached from the past?

11. What does Elizabeth, the granddaughter, represent? And her baby? In what ways does history repeat itself in her life?

12. Why has the author set this story about war against the backdrop of a passionate affair? Explore the various parallels drawn between desire and death, love and war, in the novel. In what ways are the love scenes similar to some of the battle scenes?

1 comment:

katherine h said...

I loved this book, which surprised me, as war stories generally hold little appeal for me. After reading it, I even went onto to do a little research into trench warfare. Sebastion has given us a handful of complex characters to really mull over.