Reading guide for Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold

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

Girl in a Blue Dress

A Novel Inspired by the Life and Marriage of Charles Dickens

by Gaynor Arnold

Girl in a Blue Dress
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2009, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2010, 432 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Longlisted for both the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize, Gaynor Arnold's Girl in a Blue Dress is an intimate peek at a woman who was behind one of literature's most esteemed men.This guide is meant to help your reading group in its discussion of this remarkable novel.

  1. Arnold titled her novel Girl in a Blue Dress, yet for most of the book, Dorothea is a grown woman. Why did the author choose this title? In what ways does Dorothea's growth from a girl to a woman affect the narrative?
  2. Victorian England is known for its restrictiveness and prudishness when it comes to discussing matters of the heart. If Mr. and Mrs. Gibson were to go into marriage counseling today to discuss their "issues," what would those issues be?
  3. Mrs. Gibson never seems quite comfortable in her role as a mother. How was parenthood different in the Victorian world than it is in the present day?
  4. It's obvious that Alfred loved Dorothea's sister, Alice. How would this novel have been different if he had married her, not Dodo? Would he have stayed faithful and loving throughout?
  5. Throughout the novel, there are oblique references to "the workhouse." What was the workhouse, and why do you think Alfred was so terrified of its prospect?
  6. When Alice dies, Dorothea does not dress in mourning because Alfred disapproves. After his death, Dorothea still refuses to dress in black—at least until her audience with the Queen. Why do you think this is? Is her refusal defiance of convention, a force of habit leftover from her days with Alfred, or something else entirely?
  7. In spite of it all, Dorothea never admits to feeling bitterness or hatred towards Alfred. Is this a sign of her strength, or her weakness? Explain.
  8. Arnold's novel leaves a lot unsaid, and a lot up to the imagination of its readers. In what ways do you think Alfred Gibson was unfaithful to his wife? Do you think he was a serial adulterer? Or were his infidelities less physical, more psychological?
  9. If you were Dorothea, would you have wanted to meet Miss Ricketts? What would you have said to her if you did?
  10. Who is the villain in this book—or is there one at all?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Three Rivers. 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!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: A Great Reckoning
    A Great Reckoning
    by Louise Penny
    Canadian author Louise Penny is back with her twelfth entry in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache ...
  • Book Jacket: Homegoing
    Homegoing
    by Yaa Gyasi
    It's all very well to challenge people to be the masters of their own destiny, but when you&#...
  • Book Jacket: When Breath Becomes Air
    When Breath Becomes Air
    by Paul Kalanithi
    When Breath Becomes Air is the autobiography of Paul Kalanithi, written in the time period between ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Who Said...

It is among the commonplaces of education that we often first cut off the living root and then try to replace its ...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay:
$400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

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

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.