Book club questions for The Summer Country by Lauren Willig takes a closer look at this powerful and emotional family saga. These book club questions will have spoilers so if you haven’t read the novel yet, check out my review first.
Barbados, 1854: Emily Dawson has always been the poor cousin in a prosperous English merchant clan– merely a vicar’s daughter, and a reform-minded vicar’s daughter, at that. Everyone knows that the family’s lucrative shipping business will go to her cousin, Adam, one day. But when her grandfather dies, Emily receives an unexpected inheritance: Peverills, a sugar plantation in Barbados—a plantation her grandfather never told anyone he owned.
When Emily accompanies her cousin and his new wife to Barbados, she finds Peverills a burnt-out shell, reduced to ruins in 1816, when a rising of enslaved people sent the island up in flames. Rumors swirl around the derelict plantation; people whisper of ghosts.
Why would her practical-minded grandfather leave her a property in ruins? Why are the neighboring plantation owners, the Davenants, so eager to acquire Peverills? The answer lies in the past— a tangled history of lies, greed, clandestine love, heartbreaking betrayal, and a bold bid for freedom.
Book club questions for The Summer Country
- We first meet Emily when she arrives with her cousin Adam and his wife Laura to Barbados. Let’s talk about impressions of Emily when we first met her. How did she change as the story went on? In what ways is Emily ahead of her time?
- The story features two timelines: 1854 and 1812 (which eventually goes to 1816). A factor of those two eras is life where slavery is legal and the other, where everyone is free on the island. What stuck out to you the most about live in those two different eras?
- While there are many different perspectives, Jenny is a standout. Let’s discuss Jenny’s storyline. So much of her life is dealing with people who try to control her. Was Charles the first person she chose to love? What did you think about their love story?
- Charles tries to do the right thing but circumstances and other people keep setting his good intentions back. Do you think he made the right decision in how he handled the care of his and Jenny’s daughter? Or what could he have done differently?
- What was your impressions of Mrs. Davenant (Mary Anne) in both timelines? Do you think she truly cared about Jenny or was just scared about being without her trusted slave? Why wouldn’t she tell Charles that his child was still alive? Do you think she has regrets?
- Let’s discuss the uprising of 1816.
- Emily and Nathaniel have a complicated dynamic but they finally admit their feelings in the end. What did you think about their storyline?
- Let’s talk about Emily’s grandfather. He never let Emily’s mother know the truth of her heritage. He seemed to think he saved her from being Mary Anne’s property. Let’s discuss his actions.
- Were you surprised that Jenny lived? What do you think about her and Charles moving to Paris and having more children?
- Let’s now imagine the first meeting between Emily with Charles and Jenny.
- What stuck out the most to you in regards to the history of Barbados? Have you ever been there?
What to read next
Historical fiction is one of the best genres out there and there’s always much to discuss! Here are some more recommendations along with links to book club questions.
When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton is a gorgeous novel about love, loss and home.
The Cuban Revolution took everything from sugar heiress Beatriz Perez–her family, her people, her country. Recruited by the CIA to infiltrate Fidel Castro’s inner circle and pulled into the dangerous world of espionage, Beatriz is consumed by her quest for revenge and her desire to reclaim the life she lost.
As the Cold War swells like a hurricane over the shores of the Florida Strait, Beatriz is caught between the clash of Cuban American politics and the perils of a forbidden affair with a powerful man driven by ambitions of his own. When the ever-changing tides of history threaten everything she has fought for, she must make a choice between her past and future–but the wrong move could cost Beatriz everything–not just the island she loves, but also the man who has stolen her heart…
Leading Men by Christopher Castellani is about the turbulent fifteen-year romance between the famous playwright Tennessee Williams and Frank Merlo.
It’s July 1953 in Portofino, Italy. A young Truman Capote throws a party for the literary elite, drawing Tennessee Williams and Frank Merlo. This is where they meet the fictional Anja Blomgren, a young Swedish actress they decide to take under their wing, which sets a motion of events that will alter all three of their lives. Leading Men is a quiet look at the man behind Williams and what it means to stand in someone’s shadow and to sacrifice your own wants. It’s also about the consequences of words left unsaid.
Feel free to discuss The Summer Country below!