Reading Groups

Here are a few questions to get your book club discussion started!

  • What kind of character is Rebecca West? Do we sympathise with her, or not?
  • What do you think made ordinary people look the other way during the witch hunts – or participate in them? What do you think led some of the accused women to testify against their own neighbours and family members?
  • Do you think magic and the devil have a real presence in the book? Does Alice believe in these things, do you think?
  • What do you think about Alice’s relationship with her mother-in-law, Bridget? Do you think Alice is always fair to Bridget (and vice versa)? Does their relationship change over the course of the book?
  • Matthew’s mother (Alice’s stepmother) is clearly mentally as well as physically unwell. How do the characters in the book (including Matthew) understand and react to this?
  • What do you think it is that Matthew ultimately wants? Does he want love, or the respect of his peers – or something else?
  • Why do you think Matthew wants to keep Alice in his household? Why doesn’t he just let her leave?
  • Do you like Alice? Do you think she should have acted sooner (or done more) to stop Matthew?
  • Do you think Alice is a reliable narrator? Why?
  • By the end of the book, does Alice think Matthew is evil? Do you?
  • How did you feel about the ending overall?
  • What do you make of it when Alice refuses the vicar’s proposal? Do we learn anything about how Alice thinks about marriage from what she tells us about her marriage to Joseph?
  • How do you feel about Alice losing her child? Do you think it changes her? How do you think that losing a child (or many children) might have been a similar or different experience in 1645 compared with today?
  • The status of women in society was, in some ways, different in 1645 than it is today. What role do you think the status of women had in allowing Matthew Hopkins’s witch hunt to happen?
The church at Great Wenham, where Matthew Hopkins was born

The church at Great Wenham, where Matthew Hopkins was born