Broken Girls (St. James)

The Broken Girls 
Simone St. James, 2018
Penguin Publishing
336 pp.

Vermont, 1950.

There's a place for the girls whom no one wants—the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It's called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it's located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted.

Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming—until one of them mysteriously disappears...

Vermont, 2014.
As much as she's tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister's death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall.

And though her sister's boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can't shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past—and a voice that won't be silenced. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Simone St. James is the award-winning author of The Haunting of Maddy Clare, which won two prestigious RITA awards from Romance Writers of America and an Arthur Ellis Award from Crime Writers of Canada. She writes gothic historical ghost stories set in 1920s England, books that are known for their mystery, gripping suspense, and romance.

Simone wrote her first ghost story, about a haunted library, when she was in high school. She worked behind the scenes in the television business for twenty years before leaving to write full-time. She lives just outside Toronto, Canada with her husband and a spoiled cat. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
[M]ixes a creepy supernatural tale with a gripping mystery. It also works well as a story about unshakeable friendship, parenting issues, obsession and sexism folded into a satisfying plot that straddles two eras of time.
Associated Press

[A] creepy supernatural thriller…. All the characters must also cope with human-produced horrors such as torture and neglect. The two story lines converge on a satisfyingly settled if unhappy ending.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review) 1950s and today.… This horror-tinged mystery is frighteningly believable, peopled with feisty characters, and features top-notch dialogue. St. James… might have another prizewinner on her hands.

An intense, genuinely creepy novel that links the ghostly, gothic strands of a 60-year-old murder with secrets about to be unearthed in the present day.… With a ghostly setting and an addictive plot, St. James’ story is as haunting as it gets—poignant, evocative and difficult to forget.

Discussion Questions
1. Discuss the relationship between Sonia, Katie, Roberta, and CeCe. How would you characterize their friendships? Why do you think the author chose to write about four girls with such different backgrounds?

2. Why do you think the author chose to write from multiple perspectives? Did you enjoy one character’s voice more than the others? How did the alternating points of view affect your reading of the book?

3. Discuss the character of Mary Hand. Do you think she is a malevolent ghost? What do you make of her past? Why do you think the author chose to include a supernatural element, and how effective is it?

4. Mary shows different things to each girl. What do you think they mean? Is she trying to scare the girls or is there a deeper purpose? What does she show to the other characters and why?

5. From the beginning, Fiona is determined to identify the girl in the well and uncover the truth of what happened to her. Why is this case so important to Fiona?

6. Why do you think the author chose the title The Broken Girls? Do you think Fiona is “broken”? If so, do you think this is true for the whole novel or do you believe she changes? What about the four girls in the 1950s?

7. How would you characterize Fiona and Jamie’s relationship? Do you think it’s healthy? How does it change throughout the course of the novel? Use specific examples from the book to illustrate your points.

8. Journalism plays an important role in the book. Why do you think the author chose to make Fiona a journalist? Her journalistic investigation often intersects with the police investigation. Do you think the media plays a positive or negative role in police work of this kind?

9. How are the themes of voice and silence explored in the novel? What do they mean for each of the women? Use specific examples from the book to illustrate your points.

10. Why do you think the author chose to set the novel at a boarding school? How does the remote location add to the atmosphere and plot? How would the story be different with a different setting?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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