Summer Before the War (Simonson)

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also, consider these LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for The Summer Before the War...then take off on your own:

1. Talk about the status of women's rights (or the lack of) during the setting of The Summer Before the War. What prejudices does Beatrice, as a woman, have to confront?

2. Comparisons of Simonson's book have been made to the television series Downton Abbey. What parallels do you see? Consider class and gender issues, as well as the effect of the war on the staid Edwardian sensibilities.

3. How would you describe Beatrice Nash? Why does Beatrice reject the idea of marriage?

4. Some of Simonson's dialogue is very funny. Find a few of the quips for fun...but also talk about the serious realities that underlie their surface humor. Consider, for example, this one about the arrival of Belgium refugees: "It is quite impossible to ask our ladies to take absolute peasants into their own houses, however charming their wooden clogs." Underneath its humor, what does it reveal about societal mores?

5. Talk about the incidents of cruelty, both on and off the battlefield. What might Simonson be hinting at when it comes to the cruelty of organized warfare vs. a "peaceful" village society engaged in rivalry for civic boards and pageants...or guns vs. sarcasm?

6. Describe the gruesome conditions and suffering in the battlefield trenches. How does the novel juxtapose that suffering with the naivete of the villagers back home?

7. Talk about how the rigid class attitudes were changed by the war. Hugh Grange, for instance, thinks that the "earthbound ruffians formed as indelible a part of England’s fabled backbone as any boys from Eton’s playing fields."

(We'll add specific questions if and when they're made available by the publisher. In the meantime feel free to use these, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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