Reading Group Discussion Questions

  1. Discuss the author’s claim that the characters in this novel are “not modern people prancing around in historical costumes, but are true to their time in history”. How is Rowena a product of her era and culture?

  2. Discuss the roles of women and children in the 19th century. How restrictive were their lives? What were their legal rights? Discuss the different ways that the female characters in the novel deal with these restrictions.

  3. Compare the experiences of immigrants today with those of the pioneers. Immigrants bring along prejudices from the “Old World” as well as their cultures. How is this exemplified in the novel? In what ways was the “New World” better and worse than the one the immigrants had left behind?

  4. In what ways was life difficult for the pioneers? Is there anything about their lives that appeals to us today? In what way has this novel changed your impressions about pioneer life?

  5. How are class differences exemplified in the novel? How were they less strict than in the “old Country”?

  6. Guilt is a theme throughout the book. How much of a role did it play in characters’ actions and choices? Is it justified? Consider especially Rowena, Jeremy, and Keir.

  7. People often married for reasons other than love – security, money, power, companionship, and so forth. For women, marriage was particularly important, since there were few respectable jobs that a woman could do to support herself. Discuss the motivation and success of various marriages in the novel. Could Rowena and Brendan have made a success of their marriage?

  8. Considering their strong personalities and the differences in their backgrounds, could Rowena and Jeremy have had a successful relationship? Should Rowena have become his mistress?

  9. How much of a role did the primitive, “uncivilized” nature of the backwoods play in the characters’ behaviour and in events? Would things have been different if they had been in the Old Country?

  10. Evaluate the role of stereotypes in the 19th century and today. How did they influence events in the novel? Was Keir justified in concentrating on his English heritage rather than his Irish?

  11. How much of a role does society’s perception and labelling of people influence their behaviour and choices? How much of an influence did Keir’s bastardy have on the man he would become?

  12. Was Jillian justified in her actions against Geoffrey? What could or should she have done differently? Do you feel that justice was served?

  13. Careful and extensive research went into this book. How has this added to the enjoyment of this novel?

  14. Did you find any elements of this book particularly memorable or inspiring? Did any characters especially impress you?