Reading guide for The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Dead Fathers Club

By Matt Haig

The Dead Fathers Club
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Feb 2007,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: Dec 2007,
    336 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  1. During the course of his narrative, Philip Noble, commits a series of crimes that grow increasingly serious. Despite his criminal behavior, does he continue to move the sympathies of the reader? By what means does he do so?

  2. Leah confides to Philip that she hates God. By contrast, her father, Mr. Fairview, has turned enthusiastically toward religion after the death of his wife. What commentary does The Dead Fathers Club offer regarding religion, and how does religion influence events and relationships in the novel?

  3. Philip observes, “If you speak to yourself people think you are mad but if you write the same things they think you are clever.” Discuss examples from life or literature that bear out this observation on the nature of madness and intelligence.

  4. Philip routinely omits standard punctuation and sometimes arranges words on the page to add visual meanings to the verbal significance of his writing. How do these devices influence the experience of reading the novel?

  5. How might Philip’s mental disturbances be influenced by matters relating to sexuality, for example, his recent circumcision, his attraction toward his mother, and his ambivalent feelings about Leah?

  6. Many of Haig’s characters, including Uncle Alan (Claudius), Philip’s mother (Gertrude), Leah (Ophelia), and Ross and Gary (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) have clear parallels in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Nevertheless, these characters have been reimagined with traits and motivations that distinguish them from their Shakespearean models. Choose a character from The Dead Fathers Club and reread the scenes involving that character’s counterpart in Hamlet. How has Haig altered the character? What do you think of these changes?

  7. Philip takes a surprising interest in Roman history, especially in the reign of Nero. How does this interest relate to Philip’s overall mental state, and how is it woven into the novel’s plot?

  8. Philip, who occasionally alludes to the wealth of the Fairview family and comments that “clever schools did Rugby and thick schools did Football,” is aware of the social and intellectual class system that surrounds him. To what extent is Haig’s novel shaped by issues of class?

  9. What is the most useful way to understand the spirit that we come to know as Philip’s father’s ghost? Should he be thought of as a character, as an embodiment of Philip’s anxieties, as a demonic presence, or as something else? Why does Philip trust him for so long?

  10. Philip grossly misjudges the people around him and, because he tells the story, we view these people only from his misguided perspective. Nevertheless, by some miracle of narration, we are able to see them more or less as they are: as somewhat limited but basically well-meaning human beings. How does Haig manage both to immerse us in Philip’s point of view and give us an objective understanding of his other characters?

  11. In a famous essay, T. S. Eliot complained that Hamlet was artistically flawed because the hero’s emotions were in excess of the factual situation in which he found himself. Does Haig’s retelling of the story give Philip sufficient motives for his extreme conduct? Do you find Philip believable as a character? Why or why not?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Penguin. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Promise
    The Promise
    by Ann Weisgarber
    Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame, once wrote that "...all things ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Moon
    Black Moon
    by Kenneth Calhoun
    The popularity of book-turned-movie World War Z and television series The Walking Dead points to a ...
  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Steady Running of the Hour

The Steady Running of the Hour

"Exciting, emotionally engaging and amibtious. I loved it!" - Kate Mosse

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I T T O A Eye

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.