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Reading guide for Mr. Mac and Me by Esther Freud

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Mr. Mac and Me

by Esther Freud

Mr. Mac and Me by Esther Freud X
Mr. Mac and Me by Esther Freud
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2015, 304 pages
    Oct 2015, 304 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. Thomas Maggs has dreamed of going to sea his whole life, but his family is staunchly opposed. What appeal does the ocean hold for him? Why is his desire so troubling to his parents?

  2. Thomas is initially drawn to Mr. Mac because of their mutual handicap. Does this ultimately tie them together in any way? How do they each respond to their legs? Is there a difference between the two?

  3. Thomas spends a great deal of time exploring the area around his town and is accustomed to being able to travel about undetected because he knows the land so well. And yet Mr. Mac is always aware of his presence. What about Mr. Mac makes him aware of Thomas in a way that those who have been around him his whole life are not?

  4. Once the war begins, the village begins to adhere to the Defence of the Realm Act. How does this change their day-to-day life? How does it change the way they relate to other people, both their fellow townspeople and outsiders like Mr. Mac?

  5. After DORA is announced, Thomas spends a fair amount of time worrying that he'll accidentally commit treason, and keeping watch for signs of treason in others. What do you think his understanding of those words is? Where did he come by them? What purpose does that serve?

  6. How does the village's relationship to battle and to their soldiers change over the course of the book? What events cause those changes? Where do you see the action of the war encroaching on the relative peace of the home front?

  7. Thomas is very critical of his own drawings after seeing Margaret's and Mr. Mac's work. What does he feel his work is lacking? Are his motivations to draw different from theirs? Does it seem that those differences affect the quality of their art?

  8. World War I began in the midst of a world changing due to industrialization. Where do we see signs of this in Mr. Mac and Me? What are the different scales on which the shift from human labor to machinery is apparent?

  9. Many of the characters in Mr. Mac and Me are concerned about money. Who are they and why do finances concern them? What are the different ways they each try to provide from themselves and those around them? How has the war affected their ability to make a living?

  10. Ann reads Mr. Mac's letters to Margaret because she likes the way he uses words to express his love. Where else do we see love in Mr. Mac and Me? Which relationships seem defined by real love and which by some other tie?

  11. Thomas often compares himself to his deceased brothers. How does his awareness of them and what they mean to his parents affect his confidence and understanding of his own place in his family? How does that change over the course of the bo ok?

  12. When Thomas sees Mr. Mac crying in church he wonders why, noting it might be "some private Scottish grief of his own" (69). How do the characters in the book deal with grief? How do they differ from one another?

  13. Of his work, Margaret once says to Mr. Mac, "Nature is there in everything you've ever done" (82). What does she mean by that? Based on what you know of Mr. Mac's architectural designs, how does his work seem connected to the natural world?

  14. Stories of World War I so often focus on the battles of men. How does the war change the lives of the women in Mr. Mac and Me? Where do their lives intersect with the narrative of war, both directly and indirectly?

  15. Thomas's connection to the ocean seems to come to a head at the end of the novel, at once bringing about great endings and new beginnings. How does Esther Freud use the ocean to create resolution? What are you left wondering at the end of the book?

Suggested reading:
The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear; The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally; Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones; Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson; A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin; All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle; Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks; Atonement by Ian McEwan; The Night Watch by Sarah Waters; Lucky Us by Amy Bloom; The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst; The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West; All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque; How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn.

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Bloomsbury USA. 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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