Book group questions for After I Left You

about to set off for the launch party
about to set off for the launch party

After I Left You is out there! The launch was held last week, on a beautiful moonlit evening in the garden at Mostly Books in Abingdon (you can read about it on the Mostly Books blog and the Abingdon blog). Now it’s on the shelves at independent bookshops, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, and is also available from Amazon. In a couple of weeks’ time I’m due to do my very first book group talk about the book, with the book group at work.

I’ve had a think about questions that might be helpful for book groups who want to discuss the novel, and here they are. I don’t think there are any spoilers here, but you might want to wait until you’ve read it before you look through them – they will definitely make more sense then!

If you have read the book, I’d really welcome your thoughts. Do let me know if there are any other questions that you think would be useful, and if there are any you would particularly like to discuss with other readers – and also, of course, I would be very interested to know your responses!

If you’re in the Oxford area and your book group is going to be discussing AILY and you’d like me to come along and talk about the book, post a comment to let me know and let’s see if we can sort something out. Also, plans are shaping up for an event in north London next month – details to follow.

After I Left You on the Book Buzz shelf in Mostly Books
After I Left You on the Book Buzz shelf in Mostly Books

Discussion questions for After I Left You

What was your reaction to what happened to Anna on the night of the ball?

What are the fairytale elements of Anna’s story? What, or who, makes the fairytale go wrong?

Do you think it is possible to stay with your first love? What would happen if you bumped into your first love in a bookshop one day?

How are the different friendships in the story represented?

One of the key friendships in the novel is Anna’s friendship with Keith. How would you describe this friendship?

What other novels spring to mind that include a portrayal of a friendship between a man and a woman?

Who leaves who in the book? Which characters make peace with each other, and what does it take for this to happen?

By the end of the novel, what change has Anna experienced? How is she different to the beginning of the novel?

lucky nail varnish ready for the launch - wore it for  my Thames swim too!
lucky nail varnish ready for the launch – wore it for my Thames swim too!

Why I love independent bookshops

Books are my bag! At Mostly Books in Abingdon
Books are my bag! At Mostly Books in Abingdon

Do you want to live in a bland, homogenous world where everybody listens to ‘Everything is Awesome’ as they drive into work in the morning?

No, me neither. I love shopping – or at least, I *want* to love it – and I love books. So it stands to reason that I love independent bookshops. They are uniquely good at making browsing and buying books as interesting and satisfying as it can be.

Book browsing is something that I’ve missed as a mother of small children, one of whom has autism and isn’t always great in shops, but now my children are a little older it’s a pleasure that I’m beginning to rediscover. A great independent bookshop draws its character from its owners and from the local community and its setting. It is part library, part haven, part portal to another world. You never quite know what you’re going to find, but the bookseller is on hand to act as your guide if you should want one.

I take my hat off to the people who run our independent bookshops. They’re the experts. They’re immensely knowledgeable, committed and enthusiastic about what they do. They have to be, to continue to thrive in a retail climate that does not always favour the high street. They do so much more than sell books; they reach out to local communities and beyond, and foster and support people’s love of books and reading.

IBW Bookshop Crawl
back at my desk with my Bookshop Crawl sticker on!

Today is IBW Bookshop Crawl day. I wanted to take part, but haven’t managed to venture beyond my hometown of Abingdon – I popped into Mostly Books and The Bookstore this morning. And here I am back at my desk with my Bookshop Crawl sticker on to prove it!

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been to a number of independent bookshops in my local area, popping in to talk to booksellers about my new novel, After I Left You, and, inevitably, coming out with a book or two for myself. If I could have gone to them all today I would have done! If you get the chance, I urge you to check out all these fantastic bookshops.

I also heartily recommend The Book House in Thame. And I haven’t made it to Books & Ink in Banbury yet, but hope to one day soon!

Happy Independent Booksellers’ Week one and all!

Bookshop Crawl Participated HIGH RES