The city changed my life and showed me that the world is deeply mysterious. I need to tell you about her and some terrible things and wonderful things and amazing things that happened . . . and how I am still haunted by them. Including one night when I died and woke and lived again.
Here is the riveting, soul-stirring story of Jonah Kirk, son of an exceptional singer, grandson of a formidable “piano man,” a musical prodigy beginning to explore his own gifts when he crosses a group of extremely dangerous people, with shattering consequences. Set in a more innocent time not so long ago, The City encompasses a lifetime but unfolds over three extraordinary, heart-racing years of tribulation and triumph, in which Jonah first grasps the electrifying power of music and art, of enduring friendship, of everyday heroes.
The unforgettable saga of a young man coming of age within a remarkable family, and a shimmering portrait of the world that shaped him, The City is a novel that speaks to everyone, a dazzling realization of the evergreen dreams we all share. Brilliantly illumined by magic dark and light, it’s a place where enchantment and malice entwine, courage and honor are found in the most unexpected quarters, and the way forward lies buried deep inside the heart.
The Solitary House by Lynn Shepherd hit bookshelves in paperback on July 30th and we have discussion questions for you and your book club. Don’t forget to check the back of your copy for more exclusive content from Random House Reader’s Circle.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Did the author’s rendering of London remind you of any other city you’ve been in? What do you think defines a city? What qualities do you attach to cities?
2. In reading The Solitary House, how do you see the separation of the classes playing into the story? Do you think there are similarities in how people of different income brackets are divided today?
3. What image that the author uses to describe the streets of London strikes you as being the most vivid?
4. When we first meet Charles Maddox, the author describes him as a “sentimental young man.” Do you agree with this assessment? Why or why not?
5. Is detection a science? What methods do Charles Maddox and Maddox use that would lead you to believe that it may or may not be?
6. What qualities do you associate with a book being “Dickensian”? Do you think The Solitary House, beyond using characters created by Charles Dickens, is a Dickensian thriller?
7. Compare and contrast Charles Maddox with the detectives of contemporary mysteries.
8. How do the multiple narrative viewpoints influence your reading of this mystery? Is there any one viewpoint more reliable than the others?
9. Explore the role that notes play in this novel. How does it compare with today’s use of technology, from email to tweets, as a method of communication? Of danger?
10. Discuss the many meanings of the term “solitary house.”
11. How does the author work the concept of discovery into this novel? For example, one of the ways is in chapter four, when Charles listens to the lecture on “A Scientific Journey through Africa.” How do you see the various characters exploring this ever-growing understanding of their world? Compare it to today, when the Internet has made it possible to “explore” previously undiscovered realms.
12. Explore the ways in which the author references both Bleak House and The Woman in White.
13. Why do you think Charles rejected following his father into medicine and instead followed his uncle into detection?
14. Discuss the relationship of Charles Maddox and his uncle. Is it the traditional mentor /mentee relationship? Does Maddox have anything to learn f rom his protégé, or is the training one way?
15. What qualities do you think a good detective has? Why do you think Tulkinghorn hires Charles, and does Charles meet or exceed Tulkinghorn’s expectations? How?
Deb Caletti, National Book Award Finalist and author of numerous young adult novels, is the author of HE’S GONE, a trade paperback original on sale next Tuesday, May 14th. Below, Deb shares her life-long love for one of her favorite places: the library.
One of the most constant and sustaining truths of my life has been this: I love the library. It’s a love that’s been steadfast and unwavering since I was about six years old. I understood right from the start that every set of library doors were the sort of magic portals that lead to other lands. My God, right within reach there were dinosaurs and planets and presidents and girl detectives! It was a blissful mismatch of promises, the very sort I required: adventure and escape all in a setting of order and safety.
From then on, I was the library-goer who needed the library. I was (am) a bit of an addict. The thrill of bringing home a stack of books so heavy you could barely carry them (I can take all these? For free? Really?) began then and has never left me. But even more, all the answers were in that place. I ate lunch in there sometimes when I was a teen and needed a reprieve from being a teen. As a young mother, I trolled the aisles dripping babies and book bags as I tried to learn how to be a writer. And later, I hid in Self Help as I tried to understand – and leave – my abusive marriage. That’s another thing: librarians keep your secrets. Between those walls and those covers there is all of life, the whole record of us poor old souls doing what we can to get through it, and librarians know this.
Every few weeks, I still make my pilgrimage, hauling around my too-full bag. And every time, I still can’t quite believe no one’s chasing me out as I make off with the goods. So, dear librarians, thank you for this greedy joy. Thank you, too, for the life-changing power of information. Your libraries have been my sanctuary and my sigh of relief, and I am ever grateful.
New Hyde Hospital’s psychiatric ward has a new resident. It also has a very, very old one.
Pepper is a rambunctious big man, minor-league troublemaker, working-class hero (in his own mind), and, suddenly, the surprised inmate of a budget-strapped mental institution in Queens, New York. He’s not mentally ill, but that doesn’t seem to matter. He is accused of a crime he can’t quite square with his memory. In the darkness of his room on his first night, he’s visited by a terrifying creature with the body of an old man and the head of a bison who nearly kills him before being hustled away by the hospital staff. It’s no delusion: The other patients confirm that a hungry devil roams the hallways when the sun goes down. Pepper rallies three other inmates in a plot to fight back: Dorry, an octogenarian schizophrenic who’s been on the ward for decades and knows all its secrets; Coffee, an African immigrant with severe OCD, who tries desperately to send alarms to the outside world; and Loochie, a bipolar teenage girl who acts as the group’s enforcer. Battling the pill-pushing staff, one another, and their own minds, they try to kill the monster that’s stalking them. But can the Devil die?
The Devil in Silver brilliantly brings together the compelling themes that spark all of Victor LaValle’s radiant fiction: faith, race, class, madness, and our relationship with the unseen and the uncanny. More than that, it’s a thrillingly suspenseful work of literary horror about friendship, love, and the courage to slay our own demons.
1. Pepper arrives at New Hyde Hospital in handcuffs, led inside by three cops. What are your first impressions of Pepper because of this? What assumptions do you make about him? How long does it take for those initial impressions to change?
2. New Hyde’s psychiatric unit, Northwest, is located in a public hospital in Queens. In what ways does the author overturn or undermine your ideas of what a psychiatric unit will look like and how it will be run? In what ways does he confirm your ideas?
3. During his intake meeting Pepper learns that he’ll be held for observation for seventy-two hours. He reacts badly to this. How do you imagine you might react upon learning that you were trapped within this system? What might you do differently? Do you think it would help?
4. Dorry explains that she makes a point of greeting all newly admitted patients when they arrive at New Hyde. Why does Dorry do this? How would you imagine you would react to meeting Dorry when you first arrived? Why do you think Pepper and Dorry bond in the way they soon do?
5. Though Pepper protests that he isn’t mentally ill he’s still forced to take medication which has a severe effect on him. How did the introduction of the medications affect Pepper’s behavior? Does our society seem too quick to prescribe pharmaceutical drugs these days? What affect might they be having on all of us?
6. Within days Pepper has met most of the other patients. Coffee, his roommate, seems particularly scared of something on the unit. What did you think of Coffee’s fears before Pepper was attacked and then afterward? What did you think of Coffee’s mission to reach someone, anyone, in the outside world who could help? Was he foolish or hopeful?
7. Do the members of the staff—Dr. Anand, Miss Chris, Scotch Tape, Josephine, and the other nurses and orderlies—seem to be trying to harm the patients? Is the mistreatment of the patients intentional? If not, how might the staff be seen as “suffering” inside of New Hyde, too?
8. How did your understanding of the “Devil in Silver” change as the novel progressed? By the end of the novel did you have any sympathy for “the Devil?”
9. Pepper and Sue enjoy a brief but intense love affair while inside New Hyde. How does Pepper’s time with Sue change his character? Did he help Sue, in the end?
10. Why is Vincent Van Gogh referenced so often in this book? How did Van Gogh’s story come to seem important to Pepper? Why was it relevant to the novel as a whole?
11. Whose death affected you most in this novel? Why?
12. Does Pepper ever get out of New Hyde Hospital? Where do you imagine Loochie is now?
Financial straits and a desire for a fresh start take recently widowed Meg Rosenthal and her aloof teenage daughter, Sally, to Arcadia Falls, a tucked-away hamlet in upstate New York where Meg has accepted a teaching position at a boarding school. The creaky, neglected cottage they’ll be calling home feels like an ill omen, but Meg is determined to make the best of it. Then a shocking crisis strikes: During Arcadia’s First Night bonfire, one of Meg’s folklore students plunges to her death in a campus gorge. Sheriff Callum Reade finds the presumed accident suspicious, but then, he is a man with a dark past himself. Meg is unnerved by Reade’s interest in the girl’s death, and as long-buried secrets emerge, she must face down her own demons and the danger threatening to envelop Sally. As the past clings tight to the present, the shadows, as if in a terrifying fairy tale, grow longer and deadlier.
“The pleasure of a Carol Goodman novel is in her enviable command of the classical canon—and the deft way she [writes] a book that’s light enough for a weekend on the beach but literary enough for a weekend in the Hamptons.” —Chicago Tribune
“Goodman delivers the goods her fans expect in this atmospheric and fast-moving gothic story.” —Publishers Weekly
“Carol Goodman is a master of imagery and setting. She is the kind of writer who can weave several sub-plots into a cohesive and suspenseful tapestry, while at the same time moving back and forth in time. Part gothic novel and part mystery story, Arcadia Falls will not disappoint fans and should attract new readers as well.” —Bookreporter.com
Click here to read an excerpt, and click here to learn more about Carol Goodman.
Have you been watching the show? It airs every Monday night on TNT at 10pm (eastern time). If you’ve seen it, tell us what you think of Gerritsen’s characters Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles coming to life on screen! We would love to know your thoughts.
Check out this video of Tess Gerritsen talking about Rizzoli & Isles.