The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey is a moving story about a trio of friends who head to Europe in 1944. The following book club questions will have spoilers so if you haven’t read the novel yet, check out my review first.
The year is 1944 and Fiona Denning has her entire future planned out. She’ll work in city hall, marry her fiancé when he returns from the war and settle down in the Boston suburbs. But when her fiancé is reported missing after being shot down in Germany, Fiona’s long-held plans are shattered.
Determined to learn her fiancé’s fate, Fiona leaves Boston to volunteer overseas as a Red Cross Clubmobile girl, recruiting her two best friends to come along. There’s the outspoken Viviana, who is more than happy to quit her secretarial job for a taste of adventure. Then there’s Dottie, a shy music teacher whose melodious talents are sure to bring heart and hope to the boys on the front lines. As the three friends begin to understand the real reasons they all came to the front, their courage and camaraderie will see them through some of the best and worst times of their lives.
Let’s get into the book club questions
- The book starts off in July 14, 1944 in New York City when Dottie, Viviana and Fiona are on the Queen Elizabeth departing for Europe. Let’s talk about why the three women decided to embark on this journey. What would you have done the same thing if you were in Fiona’s shoes?
- Each of the three women are different but they’re clearly very close and there for one another. Did their friendship remind you of your own friendships? Which character out of the three do you think you’re the most like?
- This story is about the real-life Red Cross Clubmobile girls. Did you know anything about those real-life women going into the story? Why do you think the women signed up to go overseas during the war?
- While the girls are sent over believe it’s going to be mostly donut and coffee making, there’s so much more responsibility that they have. When do you think it started to get more “real” and serious for the trio of women—that they were actually in the middle of the war?
- The trio also struggled the most at first. Why do you think it was hard for them and when did they start to finally get the hang of everything?
- There’s plenty of vivid details from that era to the music to the dances to the clothing – what stuck out to you when reading those kind of details?
- Fiona and Peter’s first couple of interactions were definitely rough. Why do you think Peter was a bit distant with Fiona, was it because of what he experienced at the war? When did they both start to warm up to each other? Why do you think Fiona held back the info that Danny was her fiancé at first?
- Viv tires to brush off any flirtation from Harry, even though it’s obvious she has feelings of him. She says she didn’t come there to meet a man as she could have done that at home. She’s also not looking to get married and pregnant anytime soon as “she’s got some living to do.” Let’s talk about how, in many ways, Viv is ahead of her time.
- What did you think about the romance between Dottie and Joe?
- There’s so many descriptions of war. Something that especially stuck out was how young the soldiers were. Fiona remarks that while they are young in age, they had the eyes of old souls and their invisible battle scars were apparent. Let’s discuss this. Have any of your relatives fought in a war? Do/did they talk about their experiences?
- Viv says at one point that being in the midst of the war was a world all its own. And when Fiona is in the cafe with Peter, she says that: “Peter and I were in our own separate space outside of everything, living for this brief time together— it made us feel hopeful and human. And tomorrow we would go back to the war and hope for another moment like this in the future, though there were no guarantees there would ever be one.” Let’s talk about what she means by this and how the war bonded people together.
- Fiona still loves Danny but she also falls in love with Peter. Do you think it’s possible to fall in love with two people at the same time?
- What did you think about the scene on Christmas Eve where the American soldiers meet lost German soldiers at the German family’s cottage in the woods during the Battle of the Bulge?
- Fiona eventually finds out that Danny did pass away. Were you surprised by this story choice? Why or why not?
- Let’s talk about the ending. Viv marries Harry and is moving to England; Dottie is going to go on tour and both Fiona and Peter will be stationed in Berlin. Do you think Fiona and Peter will get married one day? What happens next for Dottie? And what about Viv married in England?
More book recommendations
Wondering what to read next? Here’s another recommendation about women in WWII that takes place in the U.S. and another historical fiction novel that is centered around friendship. (Click the titles or photos to purchase from Amazon.)
The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman is about two sisters working in a WWII armory, each with a deep secret. The story is about two estranged sisters that were raised in Brooklyn and are reunited at the Springfield Armory in the early days of WWII. While one sister lives in relative ease on the bucolic Armory campus as an officer’s wife, the other arrives as a war widow and takes a position in the Armory factories as a “soldier of production.” Resentment festers between the two, and secrets are shattered when a mysterious figure from the past reemerges in their lives.
The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson is a beautifully-written novel about love and friendship. The story begins in London 1947 where the announcement of a royal wedding is a much welcomed distraction from a city still suffering post-war. We follow Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. The novel then takes readers to Toronto 2016, as Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers from her late grandmother, who never spoke of her old life in Britain.
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