As part of Bas Bleu’s 2015 Book a Month program, each month we’re offering discussion questions, author interviews, or other bonus materials to enrich your reading experience—for book clubs as well as thoughtful individuals. (We’ll do our best to avoid plot spoilers, but you should proceed with caution!)
We’ll admit that our February selection, D. E. Stevenson’s The Four Graces, seems an unusual choice for sparking literary discussion: It concerns the lives, loves, and small-town travails of the Grace sisters in 1940s England. Yet if there’s one thing we’ve learned from our own book-club meetings, it’s that seemingly straightforward novels often inspire the most heartfelt and insightful conversations between bluestockings.
1. With which of the four Grace sisters—Liz, Sal, Tilly, or Addie–did you most closely identify? Which did you most admire?
2. Living in a small town, particularly one from another era, can seem very quaint to readers…and incredibly insular. Would you enjoy living in Chevis Green? Why or why not? Would the Graces’ story have played out differently in, say, London or Edinburgh? Would Stevenson’s examination of human nature be more or less effective in a city setting?
3. What did you think of each sister’s romantic relationship(s)–or lack thereof?
4. How would you have handled Aunt Rona’s intrusion? Do you have any relatives or friends who challenge your patience? How do you deal with them? Would you have felt differently about Aunt Rona if she hadn’t had designs on Mr. Grace?
5. This sweet novel has a very simple plot, but Bas Bleu editor Christie Hall found it quite compelling nonetheless. Did you? If so, why do you think it’s so engaging?
6. In your own life, do you agree that each member of a family or household plays an accepted (if unspoken) role in the household’s dynamic? Is this good or bad? How so?
7. “Life was like that, thought Liz. You drifted on for years and years—then, suddenly, everything happened at once and all the things that had seemed so stable dissolved and disintegrated before your eyes… and life was new.” In The Four Graces, the winds of change seem to be the greatest antagonist. Though change is inevitable in human life, we often resist it. Can you recall a time in your own life when you were dreading a change that eventually turned out to be for the best?