Suggested Book Club Questions for A Superior Spectre
(Scroll down for drink suggestions.)
Read more about the novel here.
Who or what is the ‘spectre’ of the title?
When reading, how did it feel to live as Jeff, as he lived as Leonora?
Craig Hildebrand wrote, ‘To compare Leonora’s story to other historical fictions is to become complicit in Jeff’s haunting: do we read other stories to escape our own? And, in reading them, do we confirm on these characters a life of conflict and tragedy and trauma that only exists because we are there, spectres in the minds of these characters?’ Did the book inspire any thoughts for you on the act of reading itself?
Did you feel you inhabited the Scottish environment, the natural and urban, with Jeff and Leonora? You may want to talk a bit about the role ‘place’ plays in the novel.
If you had access to the technology Jeff uses (and abuses) would you be tempted to use it? Why or why not? And where and when would you want to end up?
Do you think Jeff could have shared with his wife his secret desires? How do you think it would have affected the relationship?
The book has had several ‘readings’ in various reviews. Among them, it is read as being feminist, meta-fictional, and non-binary. What was the strongest thread for you?
Did you think the ending was happy or sad?
Because the novel was researched, partly written, and is set in Scotland, here is a list of some complementary single malts. Please enjoy them neat, or with just a dash of water, but no ice, as you will offend the author.
From Islay, where Jeff and Bethea end up, and the author’s favourite single malt. First impression was ‘peaty toffee’.
A cask-strength single malt from the Speyside region, near where the author worked in a guesthouse while she was developing Leonora’s character, and first tasted by the author when she worked in a whisky bar and consumer-strength whiskies were no longer enough for her.
A friendly bourbon-cask whisky, the closest distillery to the author when she worked in the guesthouse, quite near where Leonora is from and near the graves from where characters’ names were taken. Also included because it is one of the only distilleries to have been pioneered by a woman, Helen Cumming (jointly with her husband John, who held the license) in the early 1800s.
A very, very good sherry cask whisky. You can taste the moss and stone of Scotland.
The Balvenie 21
Mentioned in the novel. A port cask whisky. Oak, smooth and sweet. Very classy.
Caol Ila 12
Had to have one more peaty Islay whisky on here. This one’s a beauty.