Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Wilde theorizes on page 171, "'Suspense is everything! Only
the banal -- only the bearded and the bald -- live for the here-and-now. You and
I, Robert, we live for the future, do we not? We live in anticipation." How does
the author build suspense throughout the story? In what ways, if any, does the
tone of the book change as the characters get closer to solving the mystery?
What is Oscar Wilde's concept of truth? How does he display
this concept in his actions and his descriptions of other's actions? Begin by
examining page 261.
On page 38, Oscar says, "I have changed my mind since then.
Consistency, as you know, is the last refuge of the unimaginative." Does this
way of thinking describe the reasoning behind Wilde's actions throughout the
story? If so, in what way?
Based on evidence in the book, why is Oscar determined to
discover Billy Wood's murderer? Can we trust the reasons he provides?
All the information that we learn about Oscar is told to us
through the pen of Robert Sherard. How might Sherard's own personal prejudices
color the descriptions of Wilde that eventually reach the reader?
Veronica Sutherland is an intelligent woman trapped in a time
period in which women have limited options. Do you sympathize with her situation
and the decisions she makes?
On page 170, Oscar says, "It is a humiliating
confession...but we are all of us made out of the same stuff....Sooner or later,
one comes to that dreadful universal thing called human nature." Do the events
of the book reinforce this conclusion? If so, how?
How do the main characters of the book differ in their
interpretations of what love is? What does the book ultimately say about love?
For a formulation of Oscar's personal opinion, see page 41.
Creative Tips for Enhancing Your Book Club
- The main characters of this book are all well-known authors
in their own rights. Choose one of the works of Oscar Wilde, Sir Arthur Conan
Doyle, or Robert Sherard as the book for your next book-club reading. Try
starting with Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, which he was in the
process of writing during the events of this book.
- Explore the exciting history of Oscar Wilde's real life by
visiting http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_wilde. What were the details of his
literary success at a young age and how did he end up spending two years in
jail? Assign a different topic of research to each person in the group and bring
in your results to share.
- Find out more about the author by visiting his website, www.gylesbrandreth.net/index.html. Or, get ready for the next book in the Oscar
Wilde Murder Mystery series by visiting
- Make a group date to attend a performance of one of Oscar
Wilde's plays. Check local listings to see what is being performed near you. You
may even wish to rent the DVD 2002 feature film of Oscar's most famous play, The Importance of Being Earnest.
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Touchstone.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.