Reading guide for The Paperbark Shoe by Goldie Goldbloom

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The Paperbark Shoe

A Novel

by Goldie Goldbloom

The Paperbark Shoe
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  • Paperback:
    Mar 2011, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Guidarini

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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.

Discussion Questions

  1. 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?

  2. 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?

  3. Many of Gin’s 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?

  4. 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?

  5. 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?

  6. 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?

  7. What does Gin’s love for Antonio bring her? What does she lose through loving him?

  8. Consider the final sequence (pages 265–280). 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?

  9. 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?

  10. Would this book have been diminished without the final section? And what does the ‘prologue’ on page 9 add to Gin’s tale?

  11. In what ways is this a story that is bound by historical events? In what ways might it speak for all time?

  12. 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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