On Sparrow Hill Discussion Questions: by Maureen Lang


 

1.      When Berrie’s letters are discovered by Rebecca and Quentin, Rebecca is more excited about the content than Quentin, whose relatives the letters would reveal. He said he wasn’t as interested in history as Rebecca was. How do you think you would react to finding letters from a long-ago relative? Excited about the history, or only mildly interested, thinking like Quentin that such letters would have little impact on your life today?

 

2.      The Victorian era is full of stories of philanthropic heroes. Beryl Hamilton, if she had really lived, would have been one. Do you think society has changed about how we go about doing good works? Are people more likely to give money than time, not both as Berrie did? What kind of philanthropic work would you do, if you had the time and the money to benefit a cause?

 

3.      Lady Elise, Quentin’s aristocratic mother, is perceived in the beginning to be cold, snobbish, easily dismissive of “servants” like Rebecca. Did her revelation at the end of the book, that she is sad to see the passing of uniqueness, of the aristocracy, change your opinion of her? Did you like her any better by the end of the book than you did at the beginning? Understand her enough to change your opinion of her?

 

4.      When Simon first arrives at Escott Manor School for the Infirm, he is aghast. If you were in his position, what do you think would have shocked you most about that scene? Hearing his sister shriek? The noise in the dining room? The smell emitted from one of the students? How would you have reacted if you were Simon, having found your sister Katie at last?

 

5.      Mr. Truebody is a stickler who thinks himself more important than he really is. Have you ever known someone like him? Worked for someone like him? What is the most effective tactic you’ve learned when dealing with someone like him?

 

6.      Quentin accuses Rebecca of being an intellectual snob, but by the end of the story he confesses he held her on too high a pedestal. Do you think Rebecca was an intellectual snob?

 

7.      Rebecca has hidden away newspaper clippings of Quentin in the bottom drawer of her desk, under the guise of being a “family recorder” as the curator of their family’s historical home. If anyone other than herself knew about the stash of clippings, do you think they would have believed her claim to have collected them only as a recorder, or do you think they would have seen through that to the crush she’s had on Quentin all these years?

 

8.      What kind of relationship do you imagine Lady Elise and Rebecca will have in the future, when Rebecca and Quentin are married? Do you think Lady Elise will ever accept Rebecca?

 

9.      When Dana learns she’s pregnant despite having taken precautions against such a thing because of the genetic disorder she carries, she decides not to tell her husband right away. Later, she decides not to return to Ireland with him where she would be spending many of her long days alone, with only Padgett for company. Do you think she made the right decisions, for Padgett’s sake? For her husband?

 

10.  Over the years, terms for mental retardation have evolved in order to ease or avoid the connotations that become associated with such terms. In Victorian times, words like “idiot,” “imbecile,” and “lunatic” were legal terms. Today it seems politically correct to use words like “cognitively challenged.” Why do you think certain words become so offensive to the general population, so offensive that as a whole we begin creating new phrases to describe the same condition?

 

11.  The theme of servanthood is prominent in this story. For me, as the author, servanthood is a lesson I sometimes resist, and at other times I am humbly grateful because Christ embodied servanthood while He was here on earth. Are there times or situations in your life when you chafe against being a servant to others? When you welcome it?

 

12.  Why do you think Lady Caroline made a point to visit Rebecca?

 

13.  Berrie was an outspoken, strong-minded woman living in an age when women were expected to be demure, saintly, subservient. And yet she was raised in an aristocratic home but was willing to do the lowliest task to meet the demands of the school. If her character were transported to today’s culture, whom would she be most like?

 

 

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