Hurricane Book Club

22 November 2016

Welcome to the Hurricane Book Club; a remote book club running online, in bookshops and libraries across Scotland with special events at Orkney, Falkirk and Glasgow Libraries.

Local book club meetings will take place at participating bookshops and libraries around Scotland.  However, any reader, anywhere can join in, just follow and participate in the discussion through Orkney library’s Twitter account @orkneylibrary, the Glasgow library's Twitter account @glasgowlibFalkirk Library's Twitter account @LibFalkirk and the hashtag #HurricaneBookClub.

Our latest title in the Hurricane Book Club is Edward Docx's Let Go My Hand. Here are some reading group questions to help kick off your discussions about the book. 

1. Let Go My Hand raises important questions about our attitude towards death; specifically how we die, and the concept of dying well. Did your reading affect your existing views on this often contentious subject?

2. Despite the fact that it centres on a father and his sons, Let Go My Hand is often described as a modern love story. Do you agree?

3. The Lasker men are on a journey in this novel, starting out in the port of Dover, bound for the Continent. Would you say the men are changed at the end of their journey?

4. Let Go My Hand tackles and destabilizes modern conceptions of masculinity. Were you surprised at all by the characterization of either Louis, Ralph or Jack?

5. The ‘road trip’ at the centre of this story brings us through Dover, Champagne and Zurich. How important is place to the novel?

6. A quote from King Lear appears at the beginning of Let Go My Hand; do you think the Shakespeare canon, and more specifically, King Lear, is important to the novel?

7. During their time together old gripes are hashed out, and the brothers’ deepest resentments are brought to the surface. Where do you think the novel stands on acceptance in family?

8. This novel is a poignant tribute to family and has been hailed as ‘universal, moving and resonant’. Which family member did you connect with most?

Our first Hurricane Book Club pick for 2018 was Danya Kukufka's gripping debut novel Girl In Snow. Paula Hawkins called it "Perfectly-paced and tautly-plotted".

Book club questions - Girl in Snow

  1. Just like in Girl in Snow, murder mysteries are often set in unremarkable suburban communities and centre on the untimely and unlikely death of a young woman. Why do you think that is?

  2. The novel has been described by Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train as ‘perfectly paced and tautly plotted’. What elements of Danya Kukafka’s writing and the structure of the novel help to create this exquisite tempo?

  3. Cameron, Jade and Russ are each attached to Lucina Hayes for different reasons. Can you identify any similarities between these characters? And which character left the most lasting impression on you?

  4. Girl in Snow plays with the idealization of the ‘golden girl’ throughout and in doing so, often destabilises our conventional ideas of femininity. Do you agree?

  5. The novel brings prescient societal issues to the forefront, namely the topic of immigration, and attempts to interrogate social biases around that issue. Do you think it’s successful in doing so?

  6. What do you think the novel is trying to say about mental illness, specifically among teenagers?

  7. Many have said that Kukafka’s central characters ‘linger in memory’ after the final page is turned. Would you agree? And if so, why do you think that is?  

  8. At what point, it at all, did you feel as though you knew how Lucinda Hayes died? Were you satisfied with the eventual conclusion?

Our summer 2017 Hurricane Book Club pick is Follow the Dead by Lin Anderson.

Follow the Dead book club questions:

  1. Much of the novel’s action switches between two key locations. Scotland’s Cairngorms mountains and Glasgow. Which strand did you enjoy the most and why?
  2. How much of a role do you think the environment/setting plays in Follow the Dead?
  3. ‘One of  the pleasures of Anderson’s novels is a cast of characters who feel like old friends’ Sunday Times. Besides Rhona, a cast of recurring characters return in the novel that have featured in earlier books. How important a role do you think this supporting ensemble play in the story? Were there any characters you would like to have seen more of?
  4. How would you describe Rhona MacLeod’s personality?
  5. Why do you think McNab is such a dysfunctional character who struggles to find happiness in his personal life?
  6. It’s clear that a certain chemistry exists between Rhona and McNab. Do you think they could ever be in a stable, long-term relationship with one another?
  7. Alvis Olsen is haunted by a tragic backstory. How much influence do you think his own personal tragedy has in driving him in his professional career?
  8. Lin tends to draw inspiration from mysticism and occult practices in many of her novels. An example in Follow the Dead is the reference to The Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui. How effective do you think this device is in creating a sinister atmosphere when we join the climbers in the opening chapter?

The second season of the book club will run from November 2016 to June 2017, with three titles specially selected by Pan Macmillan’s Picador Editorial Director, Francesca Main. 

Little Deaths by Emma Flint, an intoxicating thriller of murder, sex and obsession set during a heatwave in 1960s New York. The Place That Didn’t Exist by Mark Watson, a dazzling novel from acclaimed author and stand-up comedian Mark Watson. The Muse by million-copy international bestselling author, Jessie Burton, a glittering, seductive and utterly enthralling novel about art, identity, and the hidden power within us all.

The third Hurricane Book Club pick is The Muse by Jessie Burton

The Muse book club questions:

1. The Muse weaves together stories set in 1960s London and 1930s Spain. How evocative did you find these settings and what did you learn about life at that time? Did you prefer one of these plot strands to the other?

2. Odelle and Olive both have to overcome obstacles in order to pursue their artistic passions. Are there other similarities between these two characters?

3. Of all the characters in the novel, whose life do you feel was most affected by the painting that connects them all?

4. There are many examples of a close female friendship in the novel – which left the deepest impression on you? Would you say the characters’ friendships or their romantic relationships ultimately shaped them most?

5. What did you make of Isaac Robles and his involvement in both the Schloss family and the rising tensions in Spain?

6. Teresa struggles to keep Olive’s secret. Do you feel she acted with Olive’s best interests at heart? What would you have done?

7. What did you make of Marjorie Quick and her role in Odelle’s life?

8. The Muse explores the relationship between an artist or writer and their creative work – how important do you think the identity of the creator is to a piece of art or writing?

9. The women in The Muse all hide a part of themselves. Why do you think they each feel compelled to do so, and are there similar pressures on women today?

10. Has a book or work of art ever changed your life – if so, what was it and can you describe the effect it had on you?

Download a printable PDF   Read the first chapter

You may also be interested in...

Love poems that inspired The Muse

Picador designer Ami Smithson explains how the cover design for The Muse came about

The second Hurricane Book Club pick is The Place That Didn't Exist by Mark Watson

The Place That Didn't Exist book club questions:

1) Why do you think the novel is called The Place That Didn't Exist, and could this description apply to the themes of the book as well as its setting?
2) 'He could feel himself falling for the story all great cities tried to tell: that this place in some ways belonged to him . . . ' What did you make of the author's portrayal of Dubai, and did it remind you of other novels in which a city causes the protagonist to 'fall for the story all great cities tried to tell'?
3) Tim is a somewhat naive narrator, and something of an outsider, both in Dubai and among the crew. What was your view of him, and why do you think the author chose to tell most of the story from his perspective?
4) Were you surprised by the switch to a first-person voice in the final section, and what did this reveal to you besides the outcome of the mystery? Had you suspected this character, and did you have any other theories along the way?
5) Tim's boss at the advertising company says that their job is about telling stories, and if you are good enough at it, the stories become reality. How true do you think this is in terms of the novel's themes, both with regards to advertising and consumerism and to storytelling and memory?
6) What did you make of the wider cast of characters, and with whom did your sympathies ultimately lie?
7) Most of the action takes place in 2008, around the time of the financial crash. How well do you think the novel captured this particular moment, and how did its wider context, including advances in technology, impact upon the plot?
8) Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian as well as a novelist. Did you find The Place That Didn't Exist funny, and were there other ways in which you felt his experiences as a comedian might have influenced the book? Would you ultimately describe The Place That Didn't Exist as a comedy or a tragedy?

First up is Emma Flint's haunting, intoxicating and heart-poundingly suspenseful novel, Little Deaths.

Little Deaths book club questions:

1) How would you describe the sense of place in Little Deaths and how does the novel present the world of 1960s New York?
2) What were your first impressions of Ruth, and how did your opinion of her evolve throughout the book? Did you like her? How much did you sympathise with her?
3) To what extent did you feel Tuth was in control of her life? What pressures did you feel she was under from the other characters and – as a woman, and as a mother – from society as a whole?
4) What did you make of Pete Wonicke and his obsession with Ruth? How did you feel his version of events differed from the role played by the wider media?
5) Ruth struggles in her relationship with her mother and the other women in her neighbourhood. What did you think about the relationships between the various female characters?
6) What did you think about the portrayal of Devlin and the police force? Do you feel the case was investigated fairly or unfairly, and why?
7) The novel explores love in many forms, from parental to romantic to obsessive. How far did you feel the characters and their actions were affected by love?
8) Little Deaths is set in the 1960s, so news and gossip play out person to person and in the newspapers. How different do you think this would be today, with social media and 24-hour news coverage?
9) How much did you feel that ruth was trapped by her social circumstances or the era in which she lived? Did her story feel of its time, or could you see parallels with more recent cases?
10) Were you surprised by the ending? Did you feel that Little Deaths was ultimately a tragedy, or did you find some hope and redemption in its final pages?

Our summer hurricane book club pick is None But The Dead by Lin Anderson

When human remains are discovered to the rear of an old primary school, forensic expert Dr Rhona Macleod and her assistant arrive to excavate the grave. approaching midwinter, they find daylight in short supply, the weather inhospitable and some of the sanday island's inhabitants less than co-operative. When the suspicious death of an old man in Glasgow appears to have links with the island, DS Michael McNab is dispatched to investigate. Desperately uncomfortable in such surroundings, he finds that none of the tools of detective work are there. No internet, no CCTV, and no police station.

As the weather closes in, the team - including criminal profiler and Orkney native Professor Magnus Pirie - are presented with a series of unexplained incidents, apparently linked to the discovery of thirteen magic flowers representing the souls of dead children who had attended the island school where the body was discovered. But how and in what circumstance did they die? And why are their long forgotten deaths significant to the current investigation?

As a major storm approaches, bringing gale-force winds and high seas, the islanders turn on one another, as past and present evil deeds collide, and long buried secrets break the surface, along with the exposed bones.

lin anderson on her favourite crime books, films and tv series set in her home city of glasgow

The final hurricane book club pick is The Axeman's Jazz by Ray Celestin.

The Axeman's Jazz book club questions:

1) The Axeman’s Jazz tells the story of three separate investigators all looking for the same killer. Which was your favourite plot-line? How did you find the three strands worked together?

2) Luca d’Andrea could be described as the anti-hero of the book. Did you like or sympathise with him at all?


3) You could say new orleans itself is a main character of The Axeman’s Jazz. What do you think this added to the novel? Is this something you have noticed in any other books you have read?


4) Louis Armstrong makes his investigatory debut in The Axeman’s Jazz. How do you think including a well-known figure affected your enjoyment of the book?


5) What, to you, is the most integral part of a mystery? Characterization, action, plot twists? How did The Axeman’s Jazz meet your expectations in these areas?


6) ‘The evocative prose brings the jazz-filled, mob-ruled “big easy” of pre-prohibition america to life in glorious effect’ (sunday express)
How effectively do you think ray celestin evoked 1919 new orleans? Did you learn anything new about the city and its history? What do you like or dislike about books set in other eras?


7) The Axeman’s Jazz is inspired by a real letter sent to a new orleans newspaper signed by ‘The Axeman’. does a book being inspired by true events affect your reading experience at all? Did you like or dislike this device, and why?


8) At what point, if at all, did you guess the identity of the axeman? Were you satisfied with the conclusion?


More about Hurricane book club

When is it running?

The first season of the book club will run from January 2016 to June 2016, with three titles specially selected by Pan Macmillan’s Mantle Publisher, Maria Rejt. Each of the three titles has a two-month slot culminating in a special Hurricane Book Club meeting at Orkney library, with a live broadcast and twitter discussion @orkneylibrary and via #hurricanebookclub.

Book Club meetings: 

Local book club meetings will take place at participating bookshops and libraries around scotland. There will be also resource packs available here in the near future, which include full information about the book club titles as well as advice on setting up your own book club. please drop us an email at [email protected] if you would like a physical book club pack and to get your meeting listed on the website. The first orkney library event is at 7pm on thursday 25 february 2016, the second at 7pm on thursday 28 april 2016 and the third is on thursday 30 june 2016 at 7pm – full details listed soon.

There’s no meeting near me, can I still take part? 

Yes! Any reader, anywhere can join in just follow and participate in the discussion through Orkney library’s award-winning twitter account @orkneylibrary and the hashtag #hurricanebookclub

Check back here during each two-month period, there will be lots of blogs, posts, views and insights into these titles and the publishing industry from the authors, the editor, librarians, jacket designers, agents and more as well as, most importantly, readers. 

Click here to download our tips on how to set up your own  hurricane book club meeting

Click here to download your own hurricane book club meeting poster 

The second Hurricane Book Club pick is The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson Ellis. You can find book club questions below, plus tips on how to set up your own book club.

The Other Mrs Walker book club questions:

1) There are lots of mothers in the book, real, acquired and imagined. who do you think are the best and who the worst? And why?
2) What do you think is gained or lost by the story being told from the perspective of both past and present? Does the time-hopping succeed or is it a distraction?
3) Clementine is 8 years old in 1933 at the time of the first twins' demise and 19 when she disappears in london. How culpable do you think she is in the fate of the whole family? and are children ever to blame for disaster?
4) Indigent funerals and people dying with no  remaining next-of-kin are on the rise across the uk. What might this say about the society we live in now?
5) Margaret (and  Barbara) could ask lots of questions of each other but choose not to. why is this? And how important is it for us to know everything about our past, or is it better to keep some things hidden?
6) Many of the objects in the book survive across several generations, but not necessarily their significance. What objects might you like to inherit, or leave behind when you die and why? Does it matter if the story they tell is eventually forgotten?
7) What margaret calls 'the territory of the dead' exists in all towns and cities i.e. mortuaries, crematoriums, funeral directors etc. Why do you think their work is often hidden, when death is a fundamental part of life?
8) Would you ever join an indigent funeral rota?

The first Hurricane Book Club pick is The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter, by Malcolm Mackay.

First up in the Hurricane Book Club is Malcolm Mackay's debut novel The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter. Winner of the ITV3 crime thriller book club best read award and shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger for best debut crime novel of the year, he Necessary Death of Lewis Winter is an arresting, gripping novel of dark relationships and even darker moralities.

The next books to feature will be The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson-Ellis and The Axeman's Jazz by Ray Celestin.


Mantle publisher, Maria Rejt, talks about The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter:

The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter book club questions:

1. The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter is a dark novel set in a dark world. Who did you feel you were rooting for? Did you find yourself rooting for more than one side?

2. Mackay uses an unusual, staccato writing style. How did you feel this affected your reading and the atmosphere of the novel?

3. Hackay gets into the head of lots of different characters over the course of this novel. Who’s view point was your favourite to explore? Did you particularly empathise with any of the characters?

4. The book takes you step by step through the hit on lewis winter. What effect did you feel this amount of detail gave? Did you like it?

The Hurricane Book Club is a joint initiative between the bookseller industry awards library of the year 2015, Orkney library & archive, and publisher of the year 2015, Pan Macmillan. the first season of the Hurricane Book Club is supported by Bloody Scotland and the Scottish Book Trust.


You may also like