Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse
September 2015 Indie Next List
— Betsy Schram (W), The Bookshelf, Cincinnati, OH
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Milkweed Editions, 9781571311122, 456pp.
Publication Date: July 19, 2016
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. Harvester is a typical small town, complete with both close-knit bonds and an insidious gossip mill. How do these two characteristics affect one another? As the balance between them shifts with changing circumstances, how does each influence the trajectory of Nell’s life?
2. Nell uses P.G. Wodehouse’s novels as a means to survive loss and hardship. What about these novels does she find so comforting? What role do these books play in her relationships with others?
3. Nell receives a series of cryptic letters after Elvira leaves town. What effect do these letters have on Nell? Who do you think the sender is, and does his or her specific identity matter?
4. Letters have a powerful influence on the progression of Nell’s story. What is the significance of the fact that so often, words on a page are driving forces in her life?
5. Nell’s husband Bert begins the narrative by shaming Nell for being a Catholic woman who “enjoys the bedroom.” How do diverse faith traditions affect the town’s perceptions of and relationships with different characters in the book?
6. Throughout the book, the narrator changes to show Nell’s life from a variety of perspectives, including those of Hilly, Elvira, and Juliet. How do these shifts affect the way we see Nell?
7. Nell raises Hilly to be a gentle, loving boy. How does this upbringing influence him throughout his life?
8. Nell ages more than sixty years in Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse. What do you think are the most defining moments for her character’s growth and evolution?
9. Over time, Nell’s concept of and feelings about the institution of marriage become increasingly complicated. Considering the historical context, what does it take for her to live out her convictions?
10. From the opening page, Nell is presented as highly independent. In what ways does this independence express itself differently throughout her life? What outside circumstances enable or support these choices, both large and small?
11. In many ways, this is a novel about different kinds of affection—between parents and children, between friends, between lovers. How do the characters’ loyalties to these various relationships shift over time, and what effect does this loyalty have on their own lives?
12. If Nell were alive today, what books would she read for comfort, inspiration, and strength?