Archives for posts with tag: World War II

The All Good Books club will meet on Thursday, October 22, 2020 at 7 PM to discuss Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network. The meeting will be held on Zoom. Thank you to all who agreed to this one week postponement!

The first twelve questions that follow are from the end matter in Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network. The remaining questions are home-grown, but first here’s a list of prominent characters:

  • Charlie St. Clair, 19-year-old pregnant schoolgirl in 1947, takes on the alias of Mrs. Donald McGowan.
  • Rose Fournier (Charlie’s cousin) 21 years old in 1947, good with numbers, pregnant by her boyfriend Etienne.
  • Tante (aunt) Jeanne, infirm, mother of Rose.
  • Eve Gardiner, stutters, recruited in WWI to spy for England. In 1915 uses the code name Marguerite Le François, came from a troubled home, unfaithful father, spendthrift mother, always arguing.
  • René Bordelon, collaborator and profiteer takes on alias of René du Malassis.
  • Finn Kilgore, Gardiner’s man of all work. In 1947, he’s 29 or 30 years old, drives a Lagonde, an ex-convict.
  • Captain Cameron, in 1915 recruits spies for the Alice Network.
  • Alice (Lili) Dubois, Eve’s contact in the spy network. Her real name is Louise de Bettignies.
  • Violette Lameron, also a spy in the Alice network (appears in both 1917 & 1947 in the novel). Her real name is Léonie van Houtte.

Discussion Questions:

  1. ​Female friendship is a constant theme throughout The Alice Network. Charlie St. Clair and Eve Gardiner begin as antagonists, whereas Eve and Louise de Bettignies (Lili) are friends from the start. How does each friendship grow and change over the course of events?
  2. ​The young Eve introduced in 1915 is very different from the older Eve seen through Charlie’s eyes in 1947. How and when did you see the young Eve begin to change into her older self? What was the catalyst of those changes?
  3. ​Lili tells Eve, “To tell the truth, much of this special work we do is quite boring.” Did the realities of spy work surprise you, compared to the more glamorous version presented by Hollywood? How do you think you would have fared working for the historical Alice Network?
  4. ​René Bordelon is denigrated by his peers as a war profiteer and an informer. He sees himself as a practical businessman, pointing out that he is not to blame for making money off the invaders, or for tragedies like Oradour-sur-Glane that happened on German orders. Did you see him as a villain or an opportunist? Do you think he earned his final fate?
  5. ​Eve loves Captain Cameron and hates René Bordelon—but her relationship with René is longer, darker, and more complex. How is her hatred for him complicated by intimacy? How does his realization of Eve’s true identity change him? How do you think they continued to think and feel about each other during their thirty years’ separation, and how did that affect their eventual climax?
  6. ​Finn Kilgore and Captain Cameron are parallels for each other: both Scotsmen and ex-soldiers with war wounds and prison terms in their pasts, acting as support systems for the women they love who go into danger. How are the two men different as well as alike? How does Finn succeed where Cameron fails?
  7. ​The disappearance of Charlie’s cousin Rose Fournier provides the story’s driving search. Did her eventual fate surprise you? Had you ever heard of Oradour-sur-Glane? How did Rose’s fate change the goal of the search?
  8. ​Everyone in The Alice Network suffers some form of emotional damage from war: Charlie’s depression after losing her marine brother to suicide, Eve’s torture-induced nightmares, Finn’s concentration-camp memories and resulting anger issues, Cameron’s guilt over losing his recruits. How do they each cope with their war wounds? How do they help each other heal? How is PTSD handled in Eve’s day as compared to Charlie’s day—and as compared to now?
  9. ​Charlie dreads the stigma of being a “bad girl” pregnant out of wedlock, and Eve fears shame and dismissal as a horizontale if it is learned she slept with a source for information. Discuss the sexual double standards each woman faced. How have our sexual standards for women changed since 1915 and 1947?
  10. ​Charlie decides to keep her baby, and Eve decides to have an abortion. Why did each woman make the choice she did?
  11. ​Charlie argues that René should be brought to legal justice, and Eve argues for vigilante justice. Who do you think is right? How did it affect the ending? How do you think the outcome will bind Eve and Charlie and Finn in the future, since they cannot share their adventure with anyone else?
  12. ​“There are two kinds of flowers when it comes to women. The kind that sit safe in a beautiful vase, or the kind that survive in any conditions . . . even in evil.” The theme of the fleurs du mal carries from Lili to Eve—how does Eve pass it on to Charlie? When do you see Charlie becoming a fleur du mal in her own right? How has knowing Eve changed Charlie’s life, and vice versa?
  13. Did you look up Edith Piaf and listen to any of her music? If so, have you heard it before.
  14. The novel starts in May 1947 but reverts to May 1915 through March 1916; jumping back and forth between the two time periods. Why, what happens in those time periods? And why is the story told out of chronological order?
  15. What is Charlie St. Cloud’s “Little Problem?”
  16. Why does Charlie take on the alias of Mrs. Donald McGowan? What issues cause this deception? How did you reaction to subsequent references to “Donald?”
  17. After reading “The Alice Network” in times of war, could you be a spy?
  18. Who said, “The army doesn’t want me anymore. I did my part and the war’s over, so now they’ll pin some b-bits of tin on me and tell me to bugger off back to the file room. Well, they can keep their damned tin scraps” and why?
  19. Some characters appear throughout the novel who are based on historical figures, such as Edith Cavell (a nurse) and Léon Trulin (18-year-old). Who are they and why are they important to the novel?
  20. Did you look up “fleur du mal?” What does it mean? Who is described by that phrase in the novel and does it apply?
  21. The poem “Le Mort Joyeux” or “The Joyful Corpse” is mentioned in the novel. Did you look up the verses? What do you think it refers to? Who’s the author?
  22. Did you read the Author’s Notes at end of the novel? Did any of the information stick in your memory? How much of the novel and which of the characters are historically based?
  23. Who would you recommend this 500-page novel to? Who would you not recommend it to?
  24. If you completed the novel, would you have done so if it were not assigned for a book club discussion?

The All Good Books group will discuss With Love, Wherever You Are
by Dandi Daley Mackall at our next meeting on Thursday, January 17, 2019.

As usual, we’ll meet at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) at 7 PM.

Here are some discussion questions that appear in the back of the book as published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Discussion Questions

  1. A pivotal experience in her childhood made Helen resolve she’d grow up to be a nurse, while Frank followed his father’s footsteps into medicine. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? What experiences or family influences shaped your vocation?
  2. When do you think Frank actually fell in love with Helen? When did Helen admit that she’d fallen in love with Frank?
  3. Faced with the prospect of being separated by the war, Frank and Helen made a swift decision to marry. Would you have been among the friends who cheered them on or those who asked if they’d lost their minds? Why?
  4. Both before and after their wedding, Helen and Frank had moments of doubt about their marriage, especially about how well they truly knew each other. What things would you list as essential to know about another person before marrying? What kinds of things can be learned over time?
  5. Having only letters to connect them for weeks and even months left Helen and Frank vulnerable to misunderstandings. Once, as she endured long days with no word from Frank, Helen filled in her own assumptions about what he was thinking and feeling, only to learn that he hadn’t received her letters at all. In Helen’s place, would you have jumped to the same conclusions? Can you think of a time when you constructed your own story about another person during a gap in communication? How much of what you believed was the truth?
  6. Frank showed his jealousy a couple of times, most notably over Colonel Pugh and the trip to Paris. Helen also admitted her jealousy over Nurse Becky and Marie, the young French patient in Marseille. How did they handle moments of jealousy? Have you ever been jealous—of a spouse, a friend, a family member? How did you handle it?
  7. What characteristics would you say are necessary for an enduring marriage? Which of these did you see Frank and Helen exhibiting, or learning, throughout the story? Where did they still need to grow?
  8. Faced with the prospects of battles and bombings, Frank wondered, “What was it that made one man buck up, another act heroically, and another give in to terror?” How would you answer his question?
  9. Frank came to find comfort and courage from a verse of Psalm 23: “I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” How do you respond to fear?
  10. Frank was quick to tell others that Dotty and Jack were the heroes in his family—not him. Why do you think he was reluctant to take on a “hero” label? How would you define a hero, and who has been one in your life?
  11. For much of the story, Helen lived by the motto “God helps those who help themselves.” But when she’s forced to acknowledge how much is out of her control, Naomi advises her that a better motto might be “God helps most when you admit you can’t do it on your own.” Which motto do you believe and live by?
  12. This novel is fiction, but based on the experiences and letters of the real-life Frank and Helen Daley. How much do you know about your parents’ or grandparents’ histories? Can you think of any family stories that would make good fiction? If you were to write those stories, where might you have to use your imagination to fill in gaps or flesh out the details?
  13. In her note to readers, the author makes a distinction between some true and invented pieces of this story—for example, Dotty’s story adheres to the facts, but in real life, Bill Chitwood wasn’t blinded, and Major Bradford didn’t exist. As a reader, did it matter to you to learn that some of the characters were invented or their stories changed? Why or why not?
  14. During World War II, Japanese and German citizens living in the US fell under cruel suspicion, and overseas, Helen faces some of the same prejudice because of her ability to speak to wounded German soldiers. In her place, how would you have responded to such suspicion? Would you have had difficulty caring for enemy soldiers?
  15. Helen and Frank were part of what’s been called “the Greatest Generation.” What qualities have earned them this title? What names have you heard for your generation? Do you think the perception of your generation is justified?
  16. Helen and Frank wrote to each other as many as three times a day, but slow and waylaid mail often meant long gaps in communication. Censorship made it hard to freely say all they might have wanted to. How different might their story have been if they’d had access to today’s instant communication? What difficulties due to their separation would have remained the same? With our new technology and the ability to stay in touch virtually all over the globe, do you think we’ve lost anything?

The All Good Books group will discuss With Love, Wherever You Are
by Dandi Daley Mackall at our next meeting on Thursday, January 17, 2019. No meeting is planned for December 2018.

Description: Everyone knows that war romances never last . . .
After a whirlwind romance and wedding, Helen Eberhart Daley, an army nurse, and Lieutenant Frank Daley, M.D. are sent to the front lines of Europe with only letters to connect them for months at a time.

Surrounded by danger and desperately wounded patients, they soon find that only the war seems real—and their marriage more and more like a distant dream. If they make it through the war, will their marriage survive?

Based on the incredible true love story, With Love, Wherever You Are is an adult novel from beloved children’s author Dandi Daley Mackall.

As usual, we’ll meet at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) at 7 PM.

Discussion questions will be posted in December.

All-Girl Filling Stations Last ReunionThe October meeting of the All Good Books discussion group will occur on Thursday, October 18, 2018, at 7 PM. The group will meet in the Church Library and discuss ” The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion” by Fannie Flagg. Everyone is invited!

Thanks to the Mount Prospect Public Library for the following discussion questions!

  1. How did you like the book? What about it left a lasting impression on you?
  2. What, if any, were your favorite moments? How about least favorite moments?
  3. After learning she was adopted Sookie said, “I’m an entirely different person than I was, even a few minutes ago. Everything has changed.” Sookie goes from identifying as a Southern Methodist English person to now identifying as Polish and Catholic. Why do people generally try to identify themselves in such short descriptors?
  4. How has how we identify ourselves changed or not changed over the years?
  5. Why was Lenore so obsessed with what side of the family Sookie’s traits came from?
  6. What are Sookie’s similarities to Lenore? Differences?
  7. Is Lenore a realistic character?
  8. Why didn’t Sookie tell Lenore she was adopted?
  9. If you were Sookie, would you have told Lenore you knew you were adopted? Why or why not?
  10. If Sookie never learned about her adoption, would her vision of Lenore ever change?
  11. How did Sookie’s relationship with her kids differ from Sookie’s relationship with her mom?
  12. A lot of this book focuses on how Sookie feels about her mother. How did Sookie feel about her father? How do you feel about her father?
  13. How were the men treated in this book? (Buck, Earle, Sookie’s father)
  14. We don’t really see much of Winks. What was his role in the book? Did you like the letters?
  15. Were you surprised to learn about the WASPs? Why are they not more known in history?
  16. How did the WASP’s storyline impact your reading of Sookie’s storyline?
  17. How did Sookie view Lenore differently by the end of the book?
  18. What, if any, are the similarities between Lenore and Fritzi?
  19. What do you think about the relationship between the psychiatrist and Sookie?
  20. What makes this book Southern?
  21. A lot of people said they didn’t like this book because they disliked the characters. Can you like a book and not like the characters? In what situations is that the case or not the case? Where do you draw the line for yourself?
  22. Were you mad that Fritzi lied about Sookie’s mother’s death? Why did she lie?
  23. Did reading The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion leave you changed in any fashion?
  24. If you had to describe this book in just one word, what would it be?

Questions copyright 2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

kell_9781101883075_are_all_r1.inddThe All Good Books discussion group will meet on Thursday, August 16, 2018 at 7 PM in the Community of Christ Church Library to discuss Lilac Girls: A Novel by Martha Hall Kelly (Random House Publishing Group). The church is located at 7842 Mission Road in Prairie Village, Kansas.

The following 15 discussion questions are suggested by the publisher, plus we’ve added a few more at the end of the list.

  1. In what ways do you think the alternating points of view help to enrich the narrative? Was there ever a time you when you wished there was only one narrator? Why or why not?
  2. The primary settings of this novel are starkly different—Caroline’s glamorous New York world of benefits and cultural events, and the bleak reality of life in a concentration camp. In what ways did the contrast between these two settings affect your reading experience?
  3. Caroline’s relationship with Paul is complicated, taboo even. Was there ever a time when you didn’t agree with a choice Caroline makes with regards to Paul? When and why?
  4. As Caroline becomes more and more invested in her work with the French Families Fund, and eventually with the Rabbits, did you feel that she changes in any way? If so, how were those changes apparent through her interactions with others?
  5. Throughout their time in Ravensbrück, Kasia and the other prisoners find subtle, and not so subtle, ways to demonstrate their resistance. Discuss the variety of actions they take. Which of them did you find to be most powerful? Most moving? Most effective?
  6. When Kasia learns that they were hunting Rabbits, she thinks, “Just don’t feel anything. If you are to live, you cannot feel.” Do you agree with this statement? What do you think it says about the nature of survival? Is it relevant to any other characters in the book, not just the prisoners?
  7. Did you find Herta to be a sympathetic character? Why or why not?
  8. When Vilmer Hartman comes to visit Ravensbrück, he shows concern for Herta’s mental state. What do you think this reveals about her character? Had you previously thought about any of the points he makes?
  9. Though the Nazis made sure the German people only got their news from one media point of view, Herta’s father continues to read as many newspapers as he can. How does this relate to media usage today?
  10. Did you feel that Halina’s ring is an important symbol in the book? How does Herta feel about the ring? Why does she keep it?
  11. Throughout the novel, in and out of Ravensbrück, the characters experience harrowing, difficult situations. Is there one that you found more memorable than the others? Why do you think the author chose to include it?
  12. If you had to come up with a single message or lesson to represent each of the main characters’ experiences—Caroline’s, Kasia’s, and Herta’s—what would it be and why?
  13. Many of the themes explored in Lilac Girls—human rights, political resistance, survival—are a direct result of the historical World War II setting. How are those themes relevant to current events today?
  14. Lilac Girls also touches on a number of interpersonal themes, including female friendship, mother-daughter relationships, love, infidelity, mental health, and more. How do these themes impact the characters’ lives?
  15. What do you think the author hoped her readers would take away from this reading experience?
  16. What event in the novel affected you the most? Why?
  17. Parts of the novel are very difficult to read because of the events that demonstrate the inhumanity and abusiveness of the Nazis. Why did you keep reading?
  18. How do Kasia and Zuzanna (the sisters) change from the beginning of the novel to the end? Do their personalities and their relationships to each other change?
  19. There are several sayings interspersed throughout the novel. Some are quotes and others are aphorisms. Did you underline or remember any specific ones?
  20. An Automat is mentioned several times in the novel. What is it? Did you have to look it up? Are there parallels between the Automat and today’s restaurants?
  21. Why do you think the novel is called “Lilac Girls?”

kell_9781101883075_are_all_r1.inddThe All Good Books discussion group will meet on Thursday, August 16, 2018 at 7 PM to discuss “Lilac Girls” by Martha Hall Kelly. Discussion questions will be posted soon.

Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and secrets that were hidden for decades.”

The book club meets at the Mission Road Congregation of the Community of Christ, 7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS. Come and join the discussion.