Reading Group Questions
Originally published in HC & MMMPB
SILENT IN THE GRAVE
In this imaginative and beautifully written debut novel, Deanna Raybourn transports us into the complex and rarified world of the Victorian aristocracy. The questions and discussion topics that follow will, we hope, enhance your enjoyment of this remarkable book.
- Julia Grey was born into a large family of wealth and privilege. How do the Marches resist the confines and expectations of Victorian society? Are they always successful?
- Families such as the Marches relied heavily upon numerous servants to handle the day to day operation of their homes. Discreet and diplomatic servants were invaluable. How do you think Aquinas, Morag and Monk acquitted themselves? Would you hire them?
- As an arrangement between friends rather than a love match, Edward and Julia’s marriage was typical of the time. Do you suppose Edward was happy with the arrangement? Can you think of modern examples of, or reasons for, such a match?
- How is Julia’s role within her marriage reflected in the setting of Grey House? Contrast the setting of Grey House with that of Nicholas Brisbane’s rooms in Chapel Street.
- The book covers a murder investigation but also a woman’s journey as she discovers her authentic self. Describe the most important ways Julia begins to know herself. Could she have known any of these things while married to Edward?
- At the heart of the book is Julia’s relationship with two archetypal men: Edward and Nicholas. Compare and contrast these relationships. Is there one important thing that each man may have given Julia?
- The happiest relationships in this book are not conventional ones. Discuss characters who seems to have found personal happiness, and why this is so.
- Nicholas struggles with flashes of precognition. Is this ability a gift or a curse? How could he have made better use of it?
- What drives Nicholas? What sort of man is he? How does he differ from the other men in Julia’s life?
- Given their characters, histories and status, is a romantic relationship between Julia and Nicholas sustainable?
- The motive behind Edward’s murder is jealousy. Would you consider this a crime of passion? Is it possible to kill someone you truly love?
- There are numerous and engaging secondary characters in this novel--including a bird! Which of these characters did you most enjoy, and why?
- Death had its own culture in Victorian England. How does this culture differ from modern times? Discuss a few of the customs referred to in the book. Who or what do you think was the genesis of these conventions?
- Despite the serious nature of the subject, this story is written with a great deal of humor and wit. Describe one scene that you found particularly amusing.
- Given the drawbacks of living in Victorian England, and the privileges of wealth and good birth, would you trade places with Julia?