Book club questions for Mildred Pierce
February 13, 2016 11:09 AM   Subscribe

I go to a monthly book club, run by a good friend, and this month we've read Mildred Pierce (which is SO good). Next weekend we'll watch the movie and have the book club meeting at the same time. My friend likes to bring ready-made questions in case the discussion takes time to get started, but neither she nor I can find any online. Can anyone point me to some, or suggest some questions?

So far all I have is, "Where do you think Mildred/Veda will be in a year?"
posted by tracicle to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I didn't find a guide for Mildred Pierce, but some of these generic book club questions would be a good kickoff for discussion, or they could be reworked to be more specific to the book (found on ALA Book Discussion Groups: Quick Start Guide):

-How did you experience the book? Were you immediately drawn into the story--or did it take you a while? Did the book intrigue, amuse, disturb, alienate, irritate, or frighten you?
-Do you find the characters convincing? Are they believable? Compelling? Are they fully developed as complex, emotional human beings--or are they one-dimensional?
-Which characters do you particularly admire or dislike? What are their primary characteristics?
-What motivates a given character’s actions? Do you think those actions are justified or ethical?
-Do any characters grow or change during the course of the novel? If so, in what way?
-Who in this book would you most like to meet? What would you ask—or say?
-If you could insert yourself as a character in the book, what role would you play? You might be a new character or take the place of an existing one.
-Is the plot well-developed? Is it believable? Do you feel manipulated along the way, or do plot events unfold naturally, organically?
-Is the story plot or character driven? In other words, do events unfold quickly? Or is more time spent developing characters' inner lives? Does it make a difference to your enjoyment?
-Consider the ending. Did you expect it or were you surprised? Was it manipulative? Was it forced? Was it neatly wrapped up--too neatly? Or was the story unresolved, ending on an ambiguous note?
-If you could rewrite the ending, would you? In other words, did you find the ending satisfying? Why or why not.
-Can you pick out a passage that strikes you as particularly profound or interesting--or perhaps something that sums up the central dilemma of the book?
-Does the book remind you of your own life? An event or situation? A person--a friend, family member, boss, co-worker?
-If you were to talk with the author, what would you want to know? (Many authors enjoy talking with book clubs. Contact the publisher to see if you can set up a phone chat.)
-Have you read the author’s other books? Can you discern a similarity—in theme, writing style, structure—between them? Or are they completely different?
posted by carrioncomfort at 12:02 PM on February 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Was there anything that you flagged or highlighted while you were reading the book? I run a book club and I use post-it flags to note things while I'm reading it that I think would be good discussion questions. Even if the book has ready-made questions online they're usually awful!
posted by radioamy at 12:33 PM on February 13, 2016

Best answer: Mildred Pierce is so much about women's avenues to power. I can't think of an exact question, but maybe something like: how much of Mildred's/Vera's choices reflect their true character and how much they reflect the limited avenues to power available to them in the time period and social world?

That's one of my favorite movies, and books, by the way. I'm envious you have a group to talk about it with!
posted by Miko at 12:36 PM on February 13, 2016

Best answer: There are some significant differences between the book and the movie. Since you're reading the book and watching the movie, it would be interesting to discuss those differences, maybe thinking about why the filmmakers made the choices they did and what effect those choices have on your thoughts about both. The Wikipedia article on the movie notes some differences - and some reasons for them - including censorship codes of the time.

Also, one interesting way to think about characters in a book is to consider who you would cast in those parts today and why.

I also think that it's interesting that the book was published in 1941 but takes place during the Depression. Think about what was happening with women during those time periods. During the Depression, a lot of men were losing their jobs. In 1941, it was looking more and more as if the US would not be able to avoid getting involved in the wars in the Pacific and Europe, which would mean large numbers of men being out of the country - so this was a time when more social upheaval, particularly in regard to gender roles, was on the horizon.
posted by FencingGal at 4:21 PM on February 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: radioamy: Last month we read Food Whore by Jessica Tom which has excellent reviews on amazon and sounded interesting, but it turned out to be pretty awful. The last straw were the book club questions that were clearly written by the author/publisher's PR people and full of self-aggrandising phrases about the book and the author.

Thanks everyone for the suggestions! They will all be a huge help, I'm sure.

(I am so excited about watching the movie, and then a few of us are also going to binge-watch the HBO series, which looks like it's scripted directly from the novel.)
posted by tracicle at 1:51 AM on February 14, 2016

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