Join the Southwest Book Club this month to discuss 31 Bond Street
by Ellen Horan on Tuesday, April 17at 7:00 p.m. in the Meeting Room. In a story based on an actual killing, Dr. Harvey Burdell, a prominent New York City dentist, is found stabbed and decapitated in his townhouse. Police promptly arrest the widow who managed his house and servants, but attorney Henry Clinton swiftly comes to her defense, and is pitted against an ambitious district attorney. Scandal, social climbing, and corruption in Manhattan during the 1850s come alive in Horan's historical mystery.
Anyone age 18 or older is welcome to attend. The book club meets monthly at the Southwest Branch Library.
For more information, please call 407.835.7323 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are unable to attend the meeting or you would like to join our discussion, you can share your thoughts or respond to the discussion questions below. Simply click "Comments" located at the bottom of this post. Join the discussion!
1. 31 Bond Street is a unique novel because it has two leads and the plot is told from both points of view: Henry Clinton, who is the defense lawyer in the murder case and Emma Cunningham, the defendant. The scenes go back and forth from the present with flashbacks. How does this create tension? Does the reader benefit from each point of view? Do you find that you were more involved with one part of the story than the other?
2. What rights didn't Emma Cunningham have that women have today? Was she a typical product of her class and education? Is she a sympathetic character? Is her motivation to secure a future for her daughters valid? What would happen if she didn't find a husband? Could she support herself? What would be her fate? Was she motivated by survival or greed when she tries to make property deals and enter into the male world of financial negotiation? Is she motivated by survival or greed to find marriages for her daughters? How much is her quest a search for love, and how much a quest for survival? How are her daughter's characters shaped by her decisions? Are women caught in some of the same binds today, or have these dilemmas been entirely eliminated?
3. The role of the Newspapers and communication at this time in our history: Newspapers were king in this time period in NYC. How did the accounts in the newspapers play a role in the events? How were real clippings used inside the story? Do they enhance the story? Even though the technologies have changed in spreading news, are there similar patterns today in breaking stories? Is it possible for any news source to be 100% objective? Is it possible to know if what is reported is truth, rumor or slander? Is there more or less reliable information with the advent of the internet than in the past when there were many vital city newspapers?
4. What is fiction and what is fact in 31 Bond Street? Much of the novel is based on actual documents and true events in this case. Which characters were real and which were made up? What events in the book were embellished? Do you find that using real characters in a fictional novel works? Does this make you want to read more about the actual case or other aspects of the history the era? Can a fictional work give a real "sense" of the past?
Discussion questions obtained from author's site at Harper Collins http://www.harpercollins.com/author/microsite/readingguide.aspx?authorID=35472&isbn13=9780061773976&displayType=readingGuide