Elmet (Mozley) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, please use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for Elmet ... then take off your own:

1. John has almost two different representations in the novel: as "Daddy" to Cathy and Daniel and as a physically bare-knuckled gargantuan of a man. How do his children see him … and how do outsiders see him? How do you see him?

2. The novel is set in contemporary times, but Fiona Mozley locates it in a "strange, sylvan otherworld," a fable-like setting, that evokes ancient Celtic Britain. How does she accomplish this? (Try pointing to passages that establish this near mythic quality.) Why might the author wish to create an otherworldly atmosphere?

3. Danny says his father “wanted to strengthen us against the dark things in the world. The more we knew of it, the better we would be prepared. And yet there was nothing of the world in our lives, only stories of it.” Is he in fact preparing his children to face the world or endangering them?

4. How would you describe the two siblings? Start with Cathy, who describes herself as "angry all the time." Why?

5. Follow-up to Question 4: Talk about Danny, who seems almost the opposite of his sister. While Cathy's strength is underestimated by those who provoke her, Danny admits that he "never thought of [himself] as a man." How does Danny think of himself. How do you think of him?

6. "Mentioning her was so rare that we did not know whether to take it as an invitation or a warning." Where is the children's mother? 

7. Talk about the economic conditions of Elmet and the tinder box of its inequality.

8. What is the back history of John and Price's relationship?

9. What do you think of Vivien? What is her role vis-a-vis the two children? How does she help Daniel to think of his father's tendency toward violence?

10. What are the signposts Mozley offers of the disaster in waiting?

11. Follow-up to Question 2: Even though the novel is based in realism, in what way can Elmet be thought of as a fable? Fables usually end with a moral: is there a lesson, or overarching theme, say, that the author seems to be reaching for in Elmet?

12. Is the ending too overwrought? Too gory? Or does it serve the expectations of the storyline?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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