Reading guide for The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O'Donnell

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The House on Vesper Sands

by Paraic O'Donnell

The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O'Donnell X
The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O'Donnell
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  • Published:
    Jan 2021, 408 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rachel Hullett
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About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. Why do you think the author chose to open with the scene of the seamstress leaping from the window?
  2. What surprised you most in reading this book? Were there any plot twists you didn't see coming?
  3. In what ways does this book feel like a classic Victorian mystery novel, and in what ways does it subvert genre expectations?
  4. How does the time period—1890s London—influence the events of the story? How might this story look different if it had taken place several decades later, or even today?
  5. In what ways do the book's settings—the church, the House on Vesper Sands itself, and more—help to develop the story? 
  6. Helen Macdonald calls this book, "haunting and unsettling, smokily atmospheric." How would you characterize the mood of the novel, and what tools did you notice the author using to achieve it?
  7. Though they live in a society where men often hold more power, how do the women in this story demonstrate power and agency?
  8. How would you describe the relationship between Inspector Cutter and Gideon Bliss? Are there any other famous duos that the pair reminds you of?
  9. In this story, ghosts exist among the living characters. Why do you think the author made this choice?
  10. How is the language used by the characters in this book different from the way those same characters might speak today? Are there particular words or phrases that struck you?


Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Tin House Books. 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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