Bibliomaniac's Book Club: The Girls by Lisa Jewell


I have produced this Book Club Guide in response to a friend's Book Club who chose the novel and had a great session suggesting it! Lisa Jewell's books are very readable and enjoyable. They will suit book clubs looking for a light read but a read with a story that will give them plenty of things to chat about! 

The Girls
What is the book about?

This story is set in London, where the picturesque houses encircle a communal garden. Everyone knows everyone. The children roam freely, in and out of each other's houses and as familiar with each other as siblings. When Clare moves in with her daughters Grace and Pip, aged eleven and twelve, she thinks she has found a real oasis for them - especially considering the recent traumatic events they have lived through.

But then one night Grace is found unconscious in a dark corner of the garden. What happened? Who did this?

Published in May 2016 by Arrow Publishers 

My review of The Girls:
Bibliomaniac's review of The Girls by Lisa Jewell
Shoebox Prompt Box
Use these items to help you start chatting at the beginning of the evening 

  • Candles  - tea lights in lanterns
  • pen, paper and envelopes
  • a copy of the map of Virginia Crescent and Virginia Terrace from the front of the book
  • some properties for sale in London suburbs from Estate Agents
  • some seeds and a trowel
  • a rabbit (a cuddly toy version will do in this occasion!) 
  • a bottle of champagne
  • a birthday card for a 13 year old girl

Questions for Book Group:

Who did you think was responsible for what happened to Grace? Did you opinion change at all at any point in the novel? If so, when and why?

How effectively does Jewell use red herrings in the novel? Were there any red herrings that caught you out?

What did you think of Adele's decision to home school?  Did she do it well?  Would you do it? 

What did you think of Clare's parenting? Was she right to keep the release of the girls' father from them? Why?

What observations do you think Jewell was trying to make about parenting? Which parent did you feel most critical of/ most sympathetic towards? Why? 

Adele asserts that "with parenting there’s a long game and a short game. The aim of the short game is to make your children bearable to live with. Easy to transport. Well behaved in public place . . . But the aim of the long game is to produce a good human being." Do you agree with her belief that you can "skip" the short game? Is there a middle ground between her viewpoint and Gordon’s discipline-focused approach?

What observations do you think Jewell is making about families? 

Is Jewell's presentation of mothers authentic and believable or too extreme? 

Which character do you think displayed the most 'moral' behaviour? And which was the least 'moral'? 

Did you think Grace was mature for her age? Was she an authentic character?

What did you think about Pip and her 'journey' throughout the novel? How does she change during her time living here? 

What draws Clare to Leo? Is her attraction to him based more on her own circumstances or something about him?

Why do you think Lisa Jewell wrote primarily from Pip, Clare and Adele’s perspectives? What do these narrators have in common? What is unique about their different standpoints, and how does this affect the story?

Did you relate to any of the girls or parents more than the others? In what ways? Which character did you like the most? And which did you dislike?

Do you think you would enjoy living in a home with a communal garden like the one described? What are some of the benefits and drawbacks?
Why does Adele ultimately look after Tyler? Are her motives purely selfless?
Do you think Adele does the right thing by keeping quiet after she discovers what happened to Grace? What would you have done in her position?
What sort of adult or mother do you think Tyler will grow up to become?

This is a story about secrets – is it ever better to keep a secret than to share?

Lisa Jewell

Author Information:
Lisa was born in London in 1968. Her mother was a secretary and her father was a textile agent and she was brought up in the northernmost reaches of London with her two younger sisters. She was educated at a Catholic girls’ Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school at sixteen she spent two years at Barnet College doing an arts foundation course and then two years at Epsom School of Art & Design studying Fashion Illustration and Communication.
She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year.
She has since written a further nine novels, as is currently at work on her eleventh.
She now lives in an innermost part of north London with her husband Jascha, an IT consultant, her daughters, Amelie and Evie and her silver tabbies, Jack and Milly.
Twitter: @lisajewelluk
Facebook: Lisajewellofficial

If you liked this, try:

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett 
When orphaned Mary Lennox comes to live at her uncle's great house on the Yorkshire Moors, she finds it full of secrets. The mansion has nearly one hundred rooms, and her uncle keeps himself locked up. And at night, she hears the sound of crying down one of the long corridors.
The gardens surrounding the large property are Mary's only escape. Then, Mary discovers a secret garden, surrounded by walls and locked with a missing key. One day, with the help of two unexpected companions, she discovers a way in. Is everything in the garden dead, or can Mary bring it back to life?

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Moss
The Forgotten Garden is a captivating, atmospheric and compulsively readable story of the past, secrets, family and memory.
Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra’s life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.
Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairytales written by Eliza Makepeace—the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century—Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself.

The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan
In this tour de force of psychological unease - now a major motion picture starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Sinead Cusack - McEwan excavates the ruins of childhood and uncovers things that most adults have spent a lifetime forgetting or denying. "Possesses the suspense and chilling impact of Lord of the Flies." Washington Post Book World.

The Constant Gardener by John LeCarre
The Constant Gardener is a magnificent exploration of the new world order by one of the most compelling and elegant storytellers of our time. The novel opens in northern Kenya with the gruesome murder of Tessa Quayle--young, beautiful, and dearly beloved to husband Justin. When Justin sets out on a personal odyssey to uncover the mystery of her death, what he finds could make him not only a suspect among his own colleagues, but a target for Tessa's killers as well. 
A master chronicler of the betrayals of ordinary people caught in political conflict, John le Carre portrays the dark side of unbridled capitalism as only he can. In The Constant Gardener he tells a compelling, complex story of a man elevated through tragedy as Justin Quayle--amateur gardener, aging widower, and ineffectual bureaucrat--discovers his own natural resources and the extraordinary courage of the woman he barely had time to love.

Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
"Cat's Eye" is the story of Elaine Risley, a controversial painter who returns to Toronto, the city of her youth, for a retrospective of her art. Engulfed by vivid images of the past, she reminisces about a trio of girls who initiated her into the fierce politics of childhood and its secret world of friendship, longing, and betrayal. Elaine must come to terms with her own identity as a daughter, a lover, and artist, and woman - but above all she must seek release from her haunting memories. Disturbing, hilarious, and compassionate, "Cat's Eye, " is a breathtaking novel of a woman grappling with the tangled knots of her life.

The Girls by Emma Cline 
Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong. 

Those We Left Behind by Stuart Neville 
DCI Serena Flanagan is forced to confront a disturbing case from her past: the murder conviction of a 12-year-old-boy who has just been released from prison
DCI Serena Flanagan hasn’t heard the boy’s name in years. 
Not since the blood on the wall and the body in the bedroom. 
Not since she listened as he confessed to brutally murdering his foster father. 
But now Ciaran Devine is out of prison and back in her life. And so is his brother, Thomas – the brother that Flanagan always suspected of hiding something.  
When Ciaran’s probation officer comes Flanagan with fresh fears about the Devines, the years of lies begin to unravel, setting a deadly chain of events in motion.

The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink
In the summer of 1990, Cathy's brother Matty was knocked down by a car on the way home from a night out. It was two weeks before his GCSE results, which turned out to be the best in his school. Sitting by his unconscious body in hospital, holding his hand and watching his heartbeat on the monitors, Cathy and her parents willed him to survive. They did not know then that there are many and various fates worse than death. 
This is the story of what happened to Cathy and her brother, and the unimaginable decision that she and her parents had to make eight years after the night that changed everything. It's a story for anyone who has ever watched someone suffer or lost someone they loved or lived through a painful time that left them forever changed. Told with boundless warmth and affection, The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink is a heartbreaking yet uplifting testament to a family's survival and the price we pay for love.

I Found You by Lisa Jewell
East Yorkshire: Single mum Alice Lake finds a man on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, no idea what he is doing there. Against her better judgement she invites him in to her home.

Surrey: Twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell 
Meet the Bird family. They live in a honey-colored house in a picture-perfect Cotswolds village, with rambling, unkempt gardens stretching beyond. Pragmatic Meg, dreamy Beth, and tow-headed twins Rory and Rhys all attend the village school and eat home-cooked meals together every night. Their father is a sweet gangly man named Colin, who still looks like a teenager with floppy hair and owlish, round-framed glasses. Their mother is a beautiful hippy named Lorelei, who exists entirely in the moment. And she makes every moment sparkle in her children's lives.
Then one Easter weekend, tragedy comes to call. The event is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear the family apart. Years pass as the children become adults, find new relationships, and develop their own separate lives. Soon it seems as though they've never been a family at all. But then something happens that calls them back to the house they grew up in -- and to what really happened that Easter weekend so many years ago.
Told in gorgeous, insightful prose that delves deeply into the hearts and minds of its characters, The House We Grew Up In is the captivating story of one family's desire to restore long-forgotten peace and to unearth the many secrets hidden within the nooks and crannies of home.

And don't forget: 

Best Venue for this title:

  • a communal garden or just a garden
  • a cafe at a garden centre
  • a park 

Best Drink to accompany this title:

  • champagne 
  • Pims 
  • orange squash

Best Snack to accompany this title:

  • barbecue food 
  • crisps and dips 
  • a picnic-style buffet 
For more recommendations and reviews please follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk) 


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