Reading guide for Skinner's Drift by Lisa Fugard

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Skinner's Drift

by Lisa Fugard

Skinner's Drift
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2006, 304 pages
    Apr 2006, 304 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. It has been ten years since Eva left South Africa when she returns to see her dying father. She still holds a great deal of ill will toward her country and her family. What do you think Eva is expecting to find upon her return? What does she actually discover about her country and herself?
  2. How do you think growing up on Skinner's Drift affected Eva physically, mentally and emotionally? What links can you make between her behavior in the present and the incidents of her past?
  3. If you are familiar with South Africa's history, particularly regarding race relations and the events of the 1980s that form the backdrop of Skinner's Drift, discuss how the novel foreshadows what is to come in South Africa and reflects the way things used to be.
  4. There are two three-person families in this novel: Martin, Lorraine and Eva and Lefu, Nkele and Mpho. Discuss the parallels between the families. How does each family's structure affect its individual members? How do the family members support one another? How do they harm one another? What are some key differences between the families?
  5. At Eva's request Lefu helps her to bury the bodies of the animals that Martin has killed. Was Eva right to ask Lefu to help her? Was Lefu right in agreeing to help her, knowing that it might cost him his job?
  6. How does the novel's structure -- sections jump back and forth in time and are interspersed with Lorraine's journal entries -- strengthen the story? The points of view of many characters are represented in the different sections. Why do you think there is so little of Martin's point of view?
  7. When Lorraine and Neels are on their nature walk she tells him the story of how her farm came to be called Skinner's Drift. What is significant about this story in relation to the rest of the novel? What does the story symbolize? Does it underscore any prevalent themes in the novel?
  8. When Lefu discovers the young boy's skeleton buried at the farm, Eva threatens to tell Martin that Lefu stole Martin's horse. Why does Eva want to protect her father? Is her desire to protect him still understandable ten years later?
  9. Roses are a recurring motif in this novel. Discuss the significance of roses in relation to various characters. Why does Lorraine give her rose garden to Lefu? Why do the roses upset Nkele? Why does Lorraine insist on taking Katinka to see the roses?
  10. What do you think of Katinka? How does her role as an outsider in the community give her a unique view of her neighbors and acquaintances? What does she represent to the community? To the novel?
  11. After meeting the stranger in the woods Nkele begins to worry about Mpho's future and decides that "her only hope [is] the man in the donga." What does she mean? After the stranger asks Nkele for a rose she stops visiting him in the woods. Why does she end their relationship if he is her only hope? What else might this stranger represent?
  12. Martin's behavior is harmful to many people. He's an alcoholic, an adulterer, and a killer, yet his family, friends and servants remain remarkably loyal to him. What does their loyalty say about his society, his family and his character? Discuss the theme of loyalty as it relates to other characters in the novel, such as Eva and Lefu, Jannie and Katinka, and Lefu and Mpho.
  13. Do you think that anyone in particular is responsible for Lorraine's death? Her husband? Jannie and Dolf? Lorraine herself? Was her death simply an accident or was it a preventable tragedy?
  14. What do you think about Eva's attitude toward Mpho when she finds the diary containing his promise to avenge the boy's death? How have the events of Mpho's childhood transformed him?
  15. Eva suddenly changes her plans at the end of the novel and decides to prolong her stay in South Africa. Why has she decided to stay? Do you think that she has forgiven her father? Has she forgiven her country? How is her ambivalence about her parents linked to her ambivalence about her country?

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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