Questions for reading group discussion on Sleepless Nights - chs. 1-20:
1. Q goes to a party held by a work colleague in the first chapter of the novel. What do you think she feels about the office culture? Have you visited with work colleagues soon after a baby's birth? If so, how did you feel about them? Did you feel an outsider or glad to be taking a break?
2. Q and Jeanie are sisters - but one is close to twenty, the other to thirty. What are their priorities? How are they different? Are these differences caused by age or by personality?
3. Jeanie and Dave have been together for a year. What are Dave's strengths as a person? Why is Jeanie in this relationship? What does it tell us about her?
4. Q and Tom are adjusting to parenthood in the early chapters of the novel. How are they coping? Do you think they're doing a good job? Have you or a friend had to make this transition? What effect do you think it has on a couple's relationship? On their feelings about work and career?
5. What do you think Tom feels about the possibility of his sister-in-law's extended visit? About his own mother and her advice? Have you been in a situation where you needed family help when a new baby came along? How did you and your spouse feel about this?
6. Do you think Tom and Q are running away by going to Connecticut?
7. How do you think Jeanie handles Paul's arrival? What do we learn about her character in chapters 10 and 12?
8. Why do you think the novel is written in two voices? What are the differences between the two voices? How big a part does Englishness play in their characters, do you think?
9. Why do you think Q finds Alison so annoying? How do you think Jeanie feels about her?
10. What do you think of Paul's suggestion in chapter 17? Why do you think he makes it? Does he have Tom's best interests at heart?
11. What effect has the recession had on the characters' lives in the novel so far? Have you read other novels recently that reference the recession? Do you think women's novels are changing in the light of our new economic reality?
I'm putting together real-life stories about the first year of mothering. Click on the blue link above to read the whole archive.
If you'd like to send me a story yourself, I'd love to read it: either add your story as a comment or write to me directly at Sarah DOT Bilston AT Yahoo DOT com. Don't worry about grammar, this doesn't have to be a work of art! I'm just interested in hearing other people's experiences of, for example,
- Sleep Deprivation
- Mother's (or father's, or sister's) interference
- Managing a marriage and a new baby
- Mixed feelings about going back to work
- The best thing about having a brand new baby.
Sleepless Nights - The Story Behind
The story behind the story:
Sleepless Nights is partly about my own experience adapting to being a mother. I have three children now, so I like to think I know what I'm doing... But when my first child came along I was completely, utterly clueless. I already had a job, I had a house, I was turned thirty; I was supposed to be a proper grown-up. But when my daughter came along I was thrown. I remember in the hospital praying that the nurse would keep on changing my daughter because I couldn't figure out which way round the diapers went. And it went on from there... So the novel is partly about the millions of small surprises, and partly about the 'bigger' issues most of us face - like, how on earth can I still have a life of my own and be a good mommy?