Readers Guide Questions

  1. Will I come to your book club? Heck, yes. In person if it’s not too far away, or via Skype if it is. (Use the contact form under Bio/Contact to get in touch.)
  2. What characteristics and skills do you suppose made the Project’s leaders choose Rachel and Liam to go to 1815? How do their abilities complement each other? In what ways do their backgrounds and personalities contrast?
  3. Consider the role of “the marriage plot” in Jane Austen novels and how it is echoed in Rachel’s relationships with Henry and Liam. Do either of these men remind you of characters in a Jane Austen novel? Which ones?
  4. What does Rachel learn about herself in the course of her own marriage plot? Do you think she’ll be happy in the end?
  5. The world that Rachel and Liam come from is described more in hints than in great detail: technological advances, a despoiled environment, a catastrophic event known as the Die-Off. Is there more that you wish had been spelled out? Like what?
  6. Consider the term “Old British.” What are the defining characteristics of Old Britishness, since it is not an ethnic or demographic designation, or at least not merely one? (For instance, we learn early on that Norman Ng, whose family came from pre-Chinese-takeover Hong Kong, is Old British.) Is it more of a class marker? Is that why Liam seemingly tries to pass as Old British, or might there be some other reason?
  7. Does Jane Austen as a fictional character in this novel correspond with your own idea of the real historical figure? Why or why not?
  8. Do you think Henry Austen truly liked Rachel? Or was he just after her money?
  9. Does Liam’s explanation of his involvement with Sabina make any sense to you? What might he have left unsaid?
  10. Do you think Liam’s rejection of Rachel that night at the Angel says more about him personally or about the social norms of the world they come from? Do you think the reasons he gives her are the real ones?
  11. Consider the scene near the end where Henry confronts Rachel and Liam. Could our time travelers have handled this better? What would you have done?
  12. In general, is there any point when you feel that Rachel or Liam made a bad decision? When and why?
  13. Did it seem out of character to you that Rachel would go away without trying to see Liam again?
  14. Eva Farmer tells Rachel: “The past is a collective fiction like anything else. … It exists because we agree it does. It has no objective reality.” Do you think there is anything to this idea? Can you think of examples in your own life or in recent history where reality – or at least the meaning of events – seemed to change in retrospect, looking different in hindsight?
  15. Were you satisfied with the ending of the novel Or were you left with unanswered questions? Like what?
  16. If time travel were possible, would you go? What time and place would you want to visit?