Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About this Guide
The following author biography and list of questions about The Paperbark Shoe 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 The Paperbark Shoe. Discussion questions have been reprinted courtesy of Fremantle Press.
Virginia Toad is an unreliable narrator. In what ways does she reveal this unreliability
to us via accounts of her mental state, her relationship with Antonio, and her relationship
with her children?
What is the effect of reading a book where a gap remains between what the narrator
tells us and what the reader understands to be happening?
Many of Gins qualities are less than likeable. For instance, what kind of mother is she?
What difference might it have made to Gin if Joan, her first (and only albino) child, had
lived? In what way does the author manage to retain reader sympathy for her narrator?
In what ways is Toad a fitting partner for Gin? Is it surprising they have found eachother? What are the redemptive aspects of his nature? What, ultimately, does the reader feel for him?
What different kinds of forbidden love appear in this novel? What do they tell us about
the needs of human beings? What do they reveal about bigotry and censure? Which is
worse: to love that which is forbidden, or never to love at all?
How does Antonio invade the defences of Virginia Toad? Is his love a true love? What
do you make of his nickname for Gin? How in the end are we to judge him?
What does Gins love for Antonio bring her? What does she lose through loving him?
Consider the final sequence (pages 265280). Does Gin actually visit Italy? Does it matter
if this final section really takes place or not? What is the importance of the very
final scene in which Gin takes the broken ring in her hand?
What does Gin learn in the passage of this final section of the book? Why is it set apart from the rest of the book?
Would this book have been diminished without the final section? And what does the
prologue on page 9 add to Gins tale?
In what ways is this a story that is bound by historical events? In what ways might it
speak for all time?
Do you agree that in war, there are no unwounded soldiers?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Picador.
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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