MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Reading guide for Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

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Three Things About Elsie

by Joanna Cannon

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon X
Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2018, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2019, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Tomp
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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. Why do you think author Joanna Cannon decided to set the novel in a nursing home?
  2. On page 63, Florence says, "I needed someone to hold my worrying for me." How does Elsie play this role for her?
  3. The act of naming and renaming things is a recurring theme in the novel. Why do you think this is significant?
  4. Did Florence's failing memory change your understanding of events at Cherry Tree? Does it make her a less reliable narrator? Why or why not?
  5. "Simon wondered where his life ended and their life began, and how we could all be stitched so tightly together, yet the threads between everybody still go unnoticed" (page 124). How does this idea of the bonds between humanity play out throughout the novel?
  6. "'You've got to find forgiveness, Florence,' said Elsie. 'You find it so easily in other people, why do you struggle so much to find it in yourself?'" (page 334). Why do you think Florence struggles to forgive herself for the past?
  7. Consider the role of time in novel, especially Florence's idea of a "long second"—when time seems to hesitate just long enough to give you a chance to make the right decision. Have you experienced any "long seconds" in your life?
  8. Florence and Simon both repeat throughout the novel that they have lived very ordinary lives. Do you think this is the case? How do you think ordinary versus extraordinary is measured?
  9. "Sometimes, a name is the only thing we can leave behind," Florence says on page 103. Do you think this is true? What else do you think Florence will leave behind?
  10. Did the third thing about Elsie come as a surprise to you? Why or why not?
  11. What do you think makes Florence ultimately realize that she has lived an extraordinary life, in the end?

  12. Enhance Your Book Club

    1. Take turns using three things to describe the members of your book club the way Florence describes Elsie.
    2. Read Joanna Cannon's first novel, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep. Do you notice any recurring themes between the two books?


    3. Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Scribner. 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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