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Book club questions for The Last of the Apple Blossom by Mary-Lou Stephens takes a closer look at this Australian family saga. There will be spoilers!
One of my favorite aspects of Book Club Chat is when a book club reaches out and asks if I could write discussion questions for a novel their book club is reading. It’s such a fun way to connect with readers! This is the case with The Last of the Apple Blossom by Mary-Lou Stephens.
This is a novel I was not familiar with prior to the book club reaching out and I’m so glad that I had the chance to read it. It’s a historical fiction novel that follows two families after the 1967 Tasmanian fires in Australia. The fires were absolutely devastating and had a ripple effect that was felt throughout generations. I did not know about this natural disaster and learned so much about it from reading this novel.
In addition to learning about the fires, the novel features heavy descriptions on life on an apple orchard and the hardships that it entails—especially after recovering from the natural disaster. I thought it was fascinating to read about Tasmania’s famous apple industry.
But beyond all that, the heart of the story is with our protagonists Catherine and Annie. I especially thought Catherine was such an engaging character and I rooted for her throughout her journey on her drive to run the family orchard and also on finding love. I highly recommend you check out this novel!
7 February, 1967. Walls of flame reduce much of Tasmania to ash.
Young schoolteacher Catherine Turner rushes to the Huon Valley to find her family’s apple orchard destroyed, her childhood home in ruins and her brother dead. Despite her father’s declaration that a woman will never run the orchard, Catherine resolves to rebuild the family business.
After five sons, Catherine’s friend and neighbour, Annie Pearson, is overjoyed by the birth of a much longed for daughter. As Annie and her husband Dave work to repair the damage to their orchard, Dave’s friend Mark pitches in, despite the fact that Annie wants him gone. Mark has moved his family to the valley to escape his life in Melbourne, but his wife has disappeared leaving chaos in her wake and their young son Charlie in Mark’s care.
Catherine becomes fond of Charlie, whose strange upbringing has left him shy and withdrawn. However, the growing friendship between Mark and Catherine not only scandalises the small community but threatens a secret Annie is desperate to keep hidden. Through natural disasters, personal calamities and the devastating collapse of the apple industry, Catherine, Annie and those they love battle to save their livelihoods, their families and their secrets.
Book Club Questions for The Last of the Apple Blossom
- How much did you know about the Tasmanian fires prior to reading this novel? Why do you think the author chose to start the story with the fires?
- Why did Catherine decide to stay behind with the orchard instead of going back to her life before the fires?
- The novel starts off in 1967— in what ways was Catherine ahead of her time?
- Annie is a mother to five boys and a newborn daughter. It’s clear she’s thrilled to have the daughter she always wanted. When did you start to suspect there was more to the story with the birth of Angela?
- Mark is a famous musician who moved to the valley in hopes of stability for his son, Charlie. Why did Mark and Catherine spark such a connection?
- It’s clear that Annie is no fan of Mark. What did you think was behind that contempt at first?
- Now let’s talk about the twist that Angela is actually the daughter of Mark and his wife Lara. What were your thoughts as you read this?
- If you were Annie, what would you have done in this situation? Do you understand why she kept Angela or do you think it was wrong? What about Mark’s choices in this?
- The novel covers a huge time period from the ’60s to present day. Which era/time period was your favorite to read about?
- Did you learn anything new about the orchard industry?
- What are some of the key themes of the novel that stuck out to you?
- If they turned the novel into a film or TV series, who should play the major roles?
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for The Last of the Apple Blossom! Here are some more recommendations along with links to book club questions.
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
The Four Winds by Kristin is a masterpiece. A must-read.
Texas, 1921. A time of abundance. The Great War is over, the bounty of the land is plentiful, and America is on the brink of a new and optimistic era. But for Elsa Wolcott, deemed too old to marry in a time when marriage is a woman’s only option, the future seems bleak. Until the night she meets Rafe Martinelli and decides to change the direction of her life. With her reputation in ruin, there is only one respectable choice: marriage to a man she barely knows.
By 1934, the world has changed; millions are out of work and drought has devastated the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as crops fail and water dries up and the earth cracks open. Dust storms roll relentlessly across the plains. Everything on the Martinelli farm is dying, including Elsa’s tenuous marriage; each day is a desperate battle against nature and a fight to keep her children alive.
In this uncertain and perilous time, Elsa—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or leave it behind and go west, to California, in search of a better life for her family.
The Four Winds is a rich, sweeping novel that stunningly brings to life the Great Depression and the people who lived through it—the harsh realities that divided us as a nation and the enduring battle between the haves and the have-nots. A testament to hope, resilience, and the strength of the human spirit to survive adversity, The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
All Jane Austen fans should definitely check out The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner.
Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.
One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.
A powerful and moving novel that explores the tragedies and triumphs of life, both large and small, and the universal humanity in us all, Natalie Jenner’s The Jane Austen Society is destined to resonate with readers for years to come.