February's book of the month
A NET FOR SMALL FISHES by Lucy Jago
Based on the true scandal that rocked the court of James I.
1. Anne and Frankie become close friends despite coming from completely different backgrounds. In what ways do their different experiences of the world shape their friendship? When is it a problem, and when is it an advantage?
2. Much of the plot is driven by the pressure on Frankie to produce an heir, and the tension that arises from her husband’s inability to impregnate her. What impression does the novel give us of relationships in Jacobean England?
3. The saffron yellow colour of the novel’s colour has a particular significance. What did saffron represent in Jacobean society? In what ways do the characters in the novel experiment with colour and fashion? How is fashion shown to be connected to power?
4. The true story behind this novel has often been written about, but often in history books rather than historical novels, and often with men as the main characters rather than women. Why do you think the author chose to centre Anne and Frankie in her work? How does this change our understanding of what really happened?
5. Anne and Frankie are responsible for much of the plot, working decisively to take action, despite the fact that society at the time expected women to remain obedient, chaste, and silent. What does this tell us about their strength as individuals? What does it tell us about the strength of their friendship?
6. Anne and Frankie are complex characters, and the author is careful to show that they did things that were wrong as well as right, and that their actions were reckless as well as brave. Why do you think the author made this decision?
7. A recent review of the novel described it as ‘a gloriously immersive escape from present times, but not escapism’. What do you think the reviewer meant by this? Do you agree?
8. Much of the writing is rich in detail, painting a vivid picture of what it was really like to live at this time. Did any particular details catch your attention? In what ways were they similar to – and different from – your preconceptions about the era?
9. Lots of historical fiction has been written about the Tudor period, often but not always focusing on the reign of King Henry VIII, but much less has been written about the Jacobean period. Why do you think this is?
10. What did you make of the ending of the novel? What messages will you take away from the book?
Wolf Hall trilogy – Hilary Mantel The Confessions of Frannie Langton – Sara Collins Hamnet – Maggie O’Farrell The Other Boleyn Girl – Philippa Gregory The Familiars – Stacey Halls Six Tudor Queens – Alison Weir A Tapestry of Treason – Anne O’Brien The Shardlake series – CJ Sansom Blackberry and Wild Rose – Sonia Velton The Glass Woman – Caroline Lea
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