Bibliomaniac's Book Club: Louise Beech

Louise Beech 
 "How to be Brave" 

How to Be BraveThe Mountain in My Shoe

Both Louise Beech's books have staggeringly high ratings on Goodreads and Amazon and the reviews are absolutely oozing with praise for her writing and storytelling. As novels that have affected so many people so deeply, they would be perfect choices for Book Group, particularly as they explore such great universal themes of family, history and love. Here's some ideas for running a book group session of both of the books including some questions from the author herself! 

But first, here's a bit of information about what both books are about.

"How To Be Brave" 

When nine-year-old Rose is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, Natalie must use her imagination to keep her daughter alive. They begin dreaming about and seeing a man in a brown suit who feels hauntingly familiar, a man who has something for them. Through the magic of storytelling, Natalie and Rose are transported to the Atlantic Ocean in 1943, to a lifeboat, where an ancestor survived for fifty days before being rescued. Poignant, beautifully written and tenderly told, How To Be Brave weaves together the contemporary story of a mother battling to save her child’s life with an extraordinary true account of bravery and a fight for survival in the Second World War. A simply unforgettable debut that celebrates the power of words, the redemptive energy of a mother’s love … and what it really means to be brave.

"The Mountain in my Shoe" 

A missing boy. A missing book. A missing husband. A woman who must find them all to find herself. On the night Bernadette finally has the courage to tell her domineering husband that she’s leaving, he doesn’t come home. Neither does Conor, the little boy she’s befriended for the past five years. Also missing is his lifebook, the only thing that holds the answers. With the help of Conor’s foster mum, Bernadette must face her own past, her husband’s secrets and a future she never dared imagine in order to find them all. Exquisitely written and deeply touching, The Mountain in My Shoe is both a gripping psychological thriller and a powerful and emotive examination of the meaning of family … and just how far we’re willing to go for the people we love.


Props to start a discussion:
a toy row boat
a map of the sea
a medical leaflet about diabetes 
a shark (a plastic toy version will do this time!!) 
a brown leather note book
a medal / bravery award 

Snacks to accompany this title:
sea salt crisps
water biscuits and cheese
a stiff drink 

Questions I’d Love To Ask Readers At A Book Group about How to be Brave by Louise Beech 

  • How did it feel reading something you know was inspired by a real-life experience – two actually?
  • Did you learn anything about Type 1 Diabetes that you might not otherwise have known?
  • Did the ghostly element work for you?
  • How did you find the ending?
  • What did you enjoy most?

Here are some quotes from the book for you to chat about:

"Yes I know, [she's not just any child] she's your child"

"How much should a child go through?"

"Being sad is how you start to be brave." & "You have to know how to be sad to know how to be happy and if you know both of those things you'll know how to be brave." 

Further Questions:

  • Did you find Rose authentic and believable for her age?
  • What did you think about the relationship between Colin and Ken?
  • What do you think Louise is saying about storytelling in her novel?
  • Is there a book that has particular significance to you? (fiction or non fiction) Why?
  • Is there a time when you've used stories to help you cope or to help someone else cope?
  • Colin is a kind of guardian angel for Natalie and Rose. Has there ever been a time in your life when you've felt you've had someone watching over you or trying to get in touch with you?

If you like "How to be Brave" try:

  • Love Anthony by Lisa Genoa
  • My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
  • A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart
  • Panic Room (film) 

And here are some questions from Louise herself about "The Mountain in my Shoe". 

  • Did the three POVs work okay for you?
  • Did they come together smoothly enough?
  • Who was your favourite character?
  • What did you think about a Lifebook being one of the voices?
  • Did it make you think about possibly doing voluntary work?
Louise Beech

I’ve been writing since I could physically hold a pen, and before that I made stories up in my head. As a child, I used to fill notepads with full-length novels, including a proper contents page, foreword and diagrams. I told anyone who would listen that one day I was going to be a world-famous novelist. There’s never been anything else I’ve wanted to do. It’s the only thing I feel confident about, and love. Writing is my safe place. My happy place. It’s where I escape, go for adventure, find therapy and healing. That’s my favourite part first and foremost. The second thing I love about writing is the readers. I’ve had so many lovely messages and met so many readers who say my words have touched them in some way. And it makes all the work worth it. Because even though I love it, it’s the hardest thing to do. Which is why I think you must love it to keep going. 

It took me almost ten years, and four novels, four plays, fifty short stories, multiple newspaper columns, millions of rejections, the odd competition shortlist, and a few tears to get a book deal. When How to be Brave lost a big competition in 2014 I saw on Twitter that Karen Sullivan was starting her own independent publishing company, Orenda Books. I followed her and cheekily asked if she’d look at the novel. She did. And after about ten weeks she said yes. I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live. She then published my second book, The Mountain in my Shoe, this year. An my third novel, Maria in the Moon, will be released in September 2017.

I’m always writing, and am working on book four too.

You can follow Louise on Twitter @LouiseWrites and visit her website 

Don't forget to follow Bibliomaniac's Book Club on Facebook and Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk) for more guides for book group and great recommendations.


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