Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Tom Ripple is a man seemingly committed to nothing except bad puns and lust.
In It's All Right Now, Ripple reveals the story of his life from the 1970s
through the present day. He begins with his quiet marriage and family life in
the suburbs of north London and his steady rise in the business world (which
comes to include a great deal of traveling and philandering) to a new period as
a divorced churchgoing country gentleman in Suffolk, then covers his time at a
modest flat in London where he becomes profoundly and strangely connected to the
residents of his building, and finally his retirement in a quiet coastal town.
A provocative examination of the everyday by a remarkable new everyman,
All Right Now gathers force and depth as its anti-hero, Tom Ripple, shares his
candid observations on his life and the unforgettable characters he comes to
know along the way.
Questions for Discussion
Tom's character is, at every turn, under question. For example, was it wrong
of Tom not to report Webb, the neighbor who tried to molest his son, to the
police? Was it the right decision not to tell his wife? Why didn't he tell his
wife? Is it possible that he kept Adrian's secret because he felt guilty about
his own interest in his son? (See page 58.)
Ripple says he's not sure how much he loves his children. Discuss your
reaction to this frankness about being a father. Does this make you dislike him
or feel an appreciation for his honesty? Discuss other examples of Ripple's
candor that form your opinion of him.
Why does Tom Ripple begin writing his life story? What does he get out of it?
(See page 113)
Discuss Tom's sense of humor and constant joke-making. Does he crack silly,
grade-school jokes to ingratiate himself with people, or, in fact, to upset
them? Is it a way of pushing people away and showing contempt for them? Consider
what he says on page 551, "One of the ways of distracting attention from our
foolishness is to play the fool, to indicate that our foolishness is something
we are well aware of."
After his divorce, Tom puts an end to seeing prostitutes for sex, makes a
home for himself in the country, and becomes an active participant in his local
church. What is he searching for at this point in his life? Does he find any
solace in the church or was it a failed attempt at a spiritual connection?
The relationship between Maureen and Tom is a wonderful example of the
difficulty of actually making a connection with another person -- how we long
for people, have nothing in common with them, miss them when they leave. Discuss
what happened between Tom and Maureen. Was she a bit hard on him the weekend she
spent at his house in Suffolk? Was it insensitive of him to bring her to the old
How does Tom's relationship to the world and to people change over the course
of his life? Does he become more connected to his world, even as that world may
look more impersonal to an outside eye? Discuss his relationships in the flat he
rents after Suffolk: the young dancers, the Polish widow, Foster, the neighbor
who commits suicide. Does he find some intimacy, some kind of authentic love, in
his relationships with these semi-strangers?
When Tom's mother dies he says of the last time he saw her, "Nothing of any
importance had been said, no questions asked, no summing up, as though there
were enough illusions about life already without any of that." Consider Tom's
unsentimental viewpoint. His reaction to his mother's death is one example. His
reaction to his wife divorcing him is another example. How does his practical
outlook serve him? How is it a hindrance to actually experiencing real feelings
of loss and love?
The other side of Tom's practical nature is the way he responds to situations
with sensible actions. Often he seems to use his skills as a former accountant
to bring something to difficult situations. When his mother dies, he sets up
accounts for the Ranasinghe children. When he cannot communicate with his
daughter, he expresses affection by helping her with a check for a house.
Discuss other ways Tom responds to emotional situations with practical actions.
Tom's daughter-in-law Jane seems to be the one person in his life that he is
able to express love for in a natural, easy way. And Jane returns that love.
What is it about Jane that makes Tom able to love her so freely?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Harper Perennial.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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