Discussion points for Sister
- How would you compare Beatrice and Tess?
- Do you think that Beatrice changes throughout the course of the story and, if so, how?
- What are your thoughts on the structure of Sister and how do you think the different tenses and narrative techniques add to the overall effect of the story?
- In what ways does Sister explore fundamental human relationships? For example: the relationship between two sisters, a mother and a daughter, two lovers, doctor and patient etc.
- What is the central theme of the book and how did it resonate with you?
- Who is your favourite/least favourite character and how true did each of them feel?
- Did you agree with Beatrice in her determination to discover the truth, despite it driving those she loved away from her?
- There is much imagery in this story, such as the colour yellow, the sea etc. Can you explain why imagery is so important in the story and how effective it is?
- There are a number of significant male characters in this story. In what ways did each of them aid or abet Beatrice and how suspicious of each of them were you?
- The ending of the story throws up a shocking twist. Did the ending work for you? How else do you feel the story could have ended?
Discussion points for Afterwards
- The fact that Grace and Jenny exist as spirits for much of the story is fairly unusual. Did you manage to suspend your disbelief enough for their state to feel convincing?
- There are certain themes that seem to interest the author. Can you comment on these?
- Can you comment on Jenny and Grace’s relationship and explain how it evolves throughout the story?
- Can you also comment on the relationship between Michael and Adam and look at how their relationship evolves?
- Did you guess who the arsonist was? How convincing are the red herrings?
- Discuss the main themes of the book and look at how integral they are to the plot.
- The dynamic between Grace and Sarah is an interesting one and changes quite significantly over the course of the story. Can you talk about this?
- What are your thoughts on the ways in which family abuse is illustrated in the story.
- What do you think of the two mother/daughter relationships in the book?
- What do you think of Grace and Michael’s marriage? Perhaps talk about the connection between Grace and Michael even though they cannot communicate with each other.
- Could the story have ended in any other way?
- What do you think of Rosamund Lupton’s use of water imagery – for example, Adam needing armbands, Jenny being alone in the ocean as she dies, and the ending?
Do you have a question for Rosamund or want to share your thoughts? We'd love to hear from your book group. Find out more on our contact page.
Recently, Rosamund was interviewed by email by Tony Lynch, from Stockport Library and Information Service, as Rosamund's books have been popular amonst the 100+ reading groups in Stockport. We thought other reading groups may also be interested so have reprinted it here:
Barely 9 months after the UK publication of her critically-acclaimed and fast-selling debut novel Sister, publisher Piatkus Books have released Rosamund Lupton’s Afterwards. Stockport Libraries’ Readers’ Team (“RT”) have been lucky enough to catch up with the author and gain an insight into her work, her life and her plans for the future.
RT: “Sister” dealt with a family tragedy when a sister goes missing and the ensuing detective work necessary to unravel what has happened to her. You have said you are very close to your own sister; did fictionalising a similar relationship shine any sort of light into that existing bond? Was it difficult to write about?
Writing the book really made me think about the bond with my own sister and what makes us so close. I think by the end of the book I had a far greater understanding of our relationship. Although both Beatrice and Tess are fictional I did use details from my own life. For example, my sister and I were sent to different boarding schools, and we used the jigsaw letter and the invisible ink letter I describe in the novel. It was very hard writing about Beatrice’s grief, but on the other hand much of the book is really a celebration of sisterhood, which was a reason I wanted to write the book.
RT: Both your novels so far have woven an investigative thread into a family tragedy. What excites you as a writer about combining these two elements?
I find it fascinating to take a very normal person, like Beatrice, who is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact Beatrice starts of the novel as dull, a bit of a snob and rather cowardly. And then this appalling thing happens and she discovers aspects of herself she never dreamt existed. My novels explore the hidden strengths within people when they are driven by love. I think that having Beatrice as a detective continually shows her love for her sister, and that is why I chose to write the novel as a detective story. I then discovered that a detective story is a great engine in a book, driving the story forwards.
RT: Reading powerful novels like these, whilst representing dramatic and enjoyable fiction, can sometimes be draining for readers; what does it feel like when you are in the middle of a work-in-progress with such drama, writing as you are in the comfort of the family home and writing in first person narrative?
I remember that when I was nearing the end of my second novel ‘Afterwards’ I was at a picnic with other mothers and children. It was a beautiful summer’s day but I couldn’t connect with it at all. My head was with my characters and the terrible sadness they were going through. It wasn’t until I’d finished the book that I could finally extricate myself emotionally. Even now, while I’m doing the edit for the USA edition, I find the book sometimes unbearably sad. With ‘Sister’ I only wrote the funeral scene once and the part where Tess is discovered. I didn’t rewrite it, although the other parts of the book underwent several polishes. I think I put everything into it, so my editor let it be. If she hadn’t I honestly don’t know if I could have revisited those chapters.
RT: How did the immediate success of your debut novel and the extremely positive reviews (Sister spent 14 weeks in the Sunday Times bestseller list and has to date sold half a million copies in paperback) affect you and your family?
It all feels a little unreal and sometimes I really do think I must have dreamt it. The first time we saw my name next to Stieg Larsson in the best seller list my husband I just laughed. As a mother, I am kept pretty grounded by my children. One of the most wonderful things has been how many people have shared in the success of the books are proud of them– not just my publishers, but my family, friends and neighbours and local bookshops. Writing a book is a lonely experience, but now I feel like I can share the books’ success.
RT: Within the space of 18 months, your first novel has been translated into 31 languages and is immensely successful; Afterwards seems set to follow that. Has your head been turned by the favourable criticism (Jeffrey Deaver commented that it was a “transcendent literary experience”) or will you convert the experience into another novel?!
I feel honoured – and sometimes humbled – by praise but I don’t think it’s gone to my head. As any parent knows, children keep you pretty grounded. My husband is a hospital doctor and what he does during his day definitely gives me a sense of perspective in life.
RT: Finally, which book or books are you currently reading?
I have just finished Jennifer Egan’s ‘A visit from the Goon Squad’. I loved the inventiveness in the book.
RT: Thank you so much for spending the time with the Readers’ Team.
It’s been an absolute pleasure.