JUNE'S BIBLIOMANIA is for
WHAT ALICE KNEW By T A COTTERELL
Alice has a perfect life – a great job, happy kids, a wonderful husband. Until he goes missing one night; she receives a suspicious phone call; things don’t quite add up.
Alice needs to know what’s going on. But when she uncovers the truth she faces a brutal choice. And how can she be sure it is the truth?
Sometimes it’s better not to know.
What Alice Knew was published by Black Swan on May 4th 2017.
Read my review of What Alice Knew here.
Book Group Questions about What Alice Knew:
I had also painted subterfuge. ......I had painted the fragile interplay of power and trust, money and fear, love and mobility. I had painted the portrait of a second marriage. What does the book say about artists? Did you enjoy the role of art, painting an artists in this book?
The novel is written from the point of the view of a woman but the author is male. How convincing do you find the female voice in this novel?
“Uneasy lies the head that wears that crown.” Can you have it all? Does success and happiness make you more miserable? What about for the characters in the book?
Part of the reason this book resonates is because it is so relatable. It’s about ordinary people in ordinary situations. It’s very believable and probably captures our deepest fears of what could happen to any of us. Do you agree? Did you find the story, the characters and their relationships believable?
"Lies compound like a debt until you can no longer pay the interest.” What points or ideas does the novel explore about lies and lying?
What do you think of the phrase “difficult truths and infinite lies” and the harm of a “little white lie”?
Is there an easy way to ‘confront’ someone? How would you confront someone? What advice might you have given Alice at various different stages of the novel?
What was the most powerful theme to you? Truth, marriage, friendship? Loyalty?
Honesty? Perception / expectations? Class / parenting / stealing / apologizing
What questions do you have at the end of the book – can the book group help you answer them?
What do you think about the ending? What do you think made the author write this ending? How else could it have ended?
Would you ever pick truth over a friendship or over a husband? How hard is it to tell the truth sometimes? Are there lines we should never cross not even to protect those we love?
What do you think about the statement: ‘A mother must give up everything for the happiness of their child’?
What do you think the novel has to say about resilience?
How did you feel towards the other characters in the book? How convincing do you find Marnie?
**BONUS MATERIAL** Questions that TA Cotterell would like to put to a Book Group:
Marnie: “The Alice I knew at school always believed in some larger truth.” To what extent is Alice a victim of/martyr to her beliefs?
‘Instinct is more powerful than knowledge’. How does this idea inform Alice’s actions? An alternative quote to illustrate the same point might be: ‘Don’t paint what you see, paint how you feel’.
And, I suppose the obvious one: What did Alice know?
Quotes from the book which might be a good starting point for a discussion:
Because once you start something, is there ever any way to go back? Once you know something, can you ever 'unknown' it again?
"Life doesn't just 'go on' as the cliche has it. The clocks are reset, relationships recalibrated."
"Life isn't only what you see in front of you. It takes place in the margins, in the lines between the squares."
“Too often beautiful boys make unhappy men.”
Props to start to a discussion about What Alice Knew:
- Bring along your favourite painting / portrait
- Postcards of paintings from Hopper /Rembrandt /Caravaggio/Picasso /Pollock /Turner
- National Portrait Gallery leaflet / guide book
- Painting equipment
Venue for the book group:
- painting class
- café at gallery
What Alice Knew is about art and painting so why not include this in your book club session? Here's a few fun ideas!
- Think of some famous portraits. What do they reveal about the character? What aspects of the sitter’s character do they reveal that the sitter might not have wanted revealed?
- What is your favourite painting and why?
- Take one of the paintings above, or one of your own and write a short story / jot down some ideas / talk about what the story behind the painting might be.
Novels about paintings or portraits:
Novels by male authors with female protagonists