Hurricane Book Club

Welcome to the fifth season of the Hurricane Book Club; running online, in bookshops and libraries across Scotland with special events at Shetland, Falkirk and Glasgow Libraries. 

Welcome to the fifth season of the Hurricane Book Club; running online, in bookshops and libraries across Scotland with special events at Shetland, Falkirk and Glasgow Libraries. Season five's books have been chosen by Mantle editors Maria Rejt and Sam Humphreys.

Sam's selections are: The Other Bennet Sister, the witty and wonderfully immersive tale of Pride and Prejudice's Mary Bennet, an introvert in a family of extroverts and looking for her own chance of love; and The Animals of Lockwood Manor, a ghostly, gothic love story that opens as the animals of the natural history museum are evacuated to a sinister country house during the war.

Maria's selection is Blood & Sugar, a 1781 investigation into a gruesome murder on the Deptford Docks which leads to a dark secret that could change the very core of British society . . .

Each of the three titles has a two-month slot culminating in simultaneous Hurricane Book Club meetings at Shetland Library, Falkirk Library and the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, with a live Twitter discussion, so the libraries can interact with each other and readers everywhere can join in too. The first meeting is at 6pm on Thursday 27 February, the second at 6pm on Thursday 30 April and the third is on Thursday 25 June at 6pm. Any reader, anywhere can join in the discussion through the dedicated twitter handle: @HurricaneBkClub or the hashtag #HurricaneBookClub. Or follow the individual library accounts: @GlasgowLib @LibFalkirk and @ShetlandLibrary.

We will be updating this page with resources for each of season five's titles, and you can find resources for the previous book selections below.

Season five

Book three: Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Here are some reading group questions to help kick off your discussions about the book:

1. How well do you feel the book portrayed life in eighteenth-century Britain and the ever-expanding London? Did you get a sense of Britain's place in the world, and how the British viewed themselves as a nation?

2. How did the book make you feel about Britain's role in the slave trade? Did the author manage to convey the horrors of the Middle Passage, despite illustrating these through character accounts rather than directly?

3. Freedom is a theme of the book, not just in terms of slavery but also the freedom to live one's life as one chooses. Which characters does the author use to illustrate this theme?

4. What do you think was the nature of the relationship between Harry and Tad? Did that relationship make Harry a more or less sympathetic character in your eyes? How much do you think Harry's wife, Caro, knew about the extent of their friendship?

5. Several unhappy marriages are depicted in the book. How did they make you feel about the choices available to women at the time? Did the lack of options open to women make you sympathize more with Caro and Mrs Monday?

6. How did you feel about the author's decision to use one first-person narrator? Would the book have benefited from other points of view? Or did you like the sense of being on a journey with Harry, knowing only what he knows when he knows it? How reliable was Harry as a narrator?

Book two: The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey

In this video Sam Humphreys introduces The Animals at Lockwood Manor:

Here are some reading group questions to help kick off your discussions about the book:

1. The Animals at Lockwood Manor is an atmospheric tale steeped in the gothic tradition. Which other novels did it remind you of?

2. How important do you think the first paragraph is in setting out the themes of the novel?

Large houses are difficult to keep an eye on, to control, my mother used to tell me, looking fraught and harried, before bustling out of the room to find the housekeeper or the butler or the tweeny maid to demand a full reckoning of what was happening in the far corners of the house. Lockwood Manor had four floors, six sets of stairs, and ninety-two rooms, and she wanted to know what was happening in each of them, at all times.

3. I wondered if Lord Lockwood was just one of those men who did not want his own daughter to work.

Hetty has her own struggles to establish herself in the working world. Do you think this is a feminist story? Does class make a difference to the opportunities available to the women in the novel?

4. Evacuated from London with mammals from the natural history museum’s collection in her charge, Hetty finds herself isolated within the extraordinary Lockwood Manor. What role do these exhibits play in the novel?

5. Despite its grand scale, Lockwood Manor is a claustrophobic place, full of secrets. Would you like to live there? Would you be as brave at Hetty in exploring it?

6. Did you guess or work out how the love story would develop?

7. In these times of lockdown, how much did reading a tale of a different kind of isolation resonate? Or is escapism more appealing for you just now?

Book one: The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow

In this video Sam Humphreys introduces The Other Bennet Sister:

Here are some reading group questions to help kick off your discussions about the book:

1. Have you read Pride and Prejudice? Do you need to have read it to enjoy The Other Bennet Sister?
2. Did The Other Bennet Sister change your perception of Mary Bennet?
3. Why do you think our fascination with Austen's stories continues, more than 200 years on?
4. What do you think Jane Austen would have made of The Other Bennet Sister?
5. Did the novel make you look at any other of the Pride and Prejudice characters differently?
6. What do you think are the main differences between Mr Hayward and Mr Ryder as potential objects of Mary's affection?
7. What do you think is important when authors reimagine classic novels?
8. Which classic characters and novels would you also like to see reimagined?

Season four:

Book three: The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

In this video Picador editor Sophie Jonathan introduces The Doll Factory:

Here are some reading group questions to help kick off your discussions about the book:

  1. The Doll Factory is set amidst the press and panic of Victorian London and is described by the Sunday Times as ‘a remarkable example of historical fiction . . . full of life, colour and intelligence.' What makes this period of history so enduringly intriguing?
  2. Do you think Elizabeth's novel could be described as feminist? If so, how does she get this across in the story?
  3. Albie is a deeply sympathetic character and his characterisation and development within the novel is a touchstone of Elizabeth Macneal's tender and gripping prose. Who else deserves our sympathy in the novel?
  4. What do you envisage for these characters after you turn the final page? Where do you think they might find themselves as time moves on?
  5. What does The Doll Factory have to say about sisterhood?
  6. The Great Exhibition is a central moment in The Doll Factory – both a hugely exciting moment in modern British history and a catalyst for creativity within the realms of the novel. What is it about this moment in time that excites the Elizabeth's creators? And what do you think might be an equivalent moment in recent times?
  7. In what ways is the search for freedom the central metaphor for the novel?
  8. How do you feel about Louis and Iris's relationship? Could Louis ever be accused of the same wrongdoings as Silas, in terms of how he regards her and her art? Furthermore, how extensively does Elizabeth explore the male gaze in the novel?

Book two: The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

In this video Picador editor Sophie Jonathan introduces The End We Start From:

Here are some reading group questions to help kick off your discussions about the book:

  1. None of the characters in The End We Start From are named – they're simply referred to by their initials. Why do you think Megan Hunter decided to do this?
  2. The novel is written in prose that reads almost like poetry. How did that affect your reading of this story?
  3. In what way is motherhood the central metaphor for the novel? How does Z's birth and infancy parallel the course of the flood?
  4. “It is bad, the news. Bad news as it always was, forever, but worse. More relevant. This is what you don't want, we realize. What no one ever wanted: for the news to be relevant.” What does this line from The End We Start From make you think of? What does this novel have to say about the world we live in today and the issues that the world faces?
  5. Why do you think Megan Hunter decided that R had to leave his family?
  6. How is Z's infancy affected by the catastrophe? Or is it unaffected?
  7. The novel is peppered with italicized interludes. Do they enrich the storyline? What is their purpose?
  8. There is a lack of dialogue in The End We Start From. What effect do you think that has on the reading experience? Do you feel closer to the narrator, or distanced from her without dialogue?
  9. What do you envisage for these characters at the end of the novel, after they have returned to London? And what is the significance of the fact that the novel tracks the first year of Z's life?

Would you call The End We Start From climate change fiction? And do you think that's a genre that is expanding?

Book one: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

In this video Picador editor Sophie Jonathan introduces Burial Rites:

Here are some reading group questions to help kick off your discussions about the book:

1. Did you enjoy Burial Rites?
2. Do you think that Burial Rites is a feminist novel?
5. What about the sagas?
6. What about Hannah's imaginative landscape – Iceland. What does that setting do for the novel?
7. Did you think Agnes would be innocent?
8. How do you feel about the crime she did commit?
9. Do you like Agnes?
10. What do you think Hannah thinks of Agnes, and of the rest of her characters?
11. What happens to Toti, Margret, Lauga throughout the novel?
12. Did you expect that ending? Does Hannah give you the opportunity to hope?

Explore book selections from previous season's of the Hurricane Book Club

Season three:

Let Go My Hand by Edward Docx

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?

Girl In Snow by Danya Kukufka

In this video Picador editor Kris Doyle introduces Girl In Snow:

Here are some reading group questions to help kick off your discussions about the book:

  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, if at all, did you feel as though you knew how Lucinda Hayes died? Were you satisfied with the eventual conclusion?

Follow the Dead by Lin Anderson

In this video Editor Alex Saunders introduces Follow The Dead:

Here are some reading group questions to help kick off your discussions about the book:

  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. 9. 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?

Season two:

The Muse by Jessie Burton

Here are some reading group questions to help kick off your discussions about the book:

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?

The Place That Didn't Exist by Mark Watson

In this video Picador Publishing Director Francesca Main introduces The Place That Didn't Exist:

Here are some reading group questions to help kick off your discussions about the book:

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?

Little Deaths by Emma Flint

Here, Francesca Main introduces Little Deaths:

Here are some reading group questions to help kick off your discussions about the book:
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 Ruth 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?

Summer hurricane book club pick:

None But The Dead by Lin Anderson

Here, Editor Wayne Brooks introduces None But the Dead:

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.

Season one

The Axeman's Jazz by Ray Celestin

Here, Mantle Publisher Maria Rejt introduces The Axeman's Jazz:

Here are some reading group questions to help kick off your discussions about the book: 

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?

The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson Ellis

In this video Maria Rejt introduces The Other Mrs Walker:

Here are some reading group questions to help kick off your discussions about the book: 

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 Necessary Death of Lewis Winter by Malcolm Mackay

Maria Rejt talks about The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter:

Here are some reading group questions to help kick off your discussions about the book: 

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 viewpoint 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?

More about Hurricane book club

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, 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 if you would like a physical book club pack and to get your meeting listed on the website. 

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 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.