Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About this Guide
The following author biography and list of questions about Christine Falls
are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach Christine Falls.
About the Book
Set in Dublin and Boston in the 1950s, the story of a surly, hard-drinking pathologist named Quirke who uncovers a conspiracy that begins with his brother-in-law and reaches deep into Dublin's Catholic society--and into his own past.
"In secret," the author writes, "Quirke prized his loneliness as a mark of
some distinction" (pg. 12). What does Quirke's loneliness do for him? How
does it make possible what he ultimately accomplishes in the story?
Is Quirke's isolation part of what allows him to see the truth about the
conspiracy around him?
What does Crawford mean when he says to Quirke that America is "the New
World", that "This is the place. God's country". How are Ireland and America
treated differently in the novel?
How do these portrayals relate to the current America and Ireland?
Do the revelations about Quirke, Phoebe, and what he knew about their
relationship change your perception of how he treated her earlier in the
novel? Why do you think Quirke kept the secret so long of who her parents
were? Was it the right decision?
Early in the novel, Quirke is thinking about his late wife Delia: "Perhaps
he had cared for her more than he knew, had cared for what she was, that is,
and not just what she had been to him."
How do these two different types of caring come into play for other
characters in the novel? Do you think they are always distinct from each
other? Are some people capable only of one or the other?
What do you think of the overall portrait of the Catholic Church that
emerges from the novel?
Did you find the conspiracy plausible? Did you feel sympathy for the nuns,
the Staffords, and other less powerful figures who were complicit in it?
Consider the difference between Quirke's early childhood, first in a brutal
orphanage and then in an adoptive home, and Mal's, as the natural-born son
of a wealthy father who loved him less than his brother. How do you think
their respective childhoods can be connected to the decisions they make in
their relationships in this story?
What role does social class play in the novel?
Why do you think Quirke sleeps with Rose? Is she right when she tells him,
"You're more like me than your precious Sarah. A cold heart and a hot
What do you think drew Quirke and Sarah together initially? Do you think
they were better off for having stayed apart throughout the years, despite
an acknowledged love for each other?
Quirke realizes midway through the novel that as .Mr. Punch and fat Judy.
were beating him, the prospect of his own death was insignificant, that .he
had thought he was going to die and was surprised at how little he feared
the prospect.. Is this is a sign of bravery in Quirke, or despair, or both?
Do you think his own life matters more or less to him by the end of the
At the end of chapter 28 a nun says to Quirke, "From the little I've seen of
you, you're a good man, if only you knew it.. Do you agree with her
assessment? What does she mean by, "if only you knew it." Would knowing it
change his behavior?
What do you imagine happening after the end of the book? How will Quirke's
relationship to his family evolve, including to Sarah and Phoebe? Have the
events in this story made him a happier man, a better man? Or have they
changed him for the worse?
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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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