If you’ve ever been curious about what it’s like working in a small publishing house, The House of Marvellous Books is the book for you. It’s also a wry, bittersweet story of desperate hope, with a cast of eccentric characters thrown together to form a curious dysfunctional family.
Bringing this to your book club is sure to spark conversations around your own places of work, your relationships with colleagues, and your impressions of the publishing world.
Before you dig into the discussion questions below, read our review of The House of Marvellous Books. You might also want to discover more great novels for your book club chats, and explore more reading group questions to get your discussions going.
1. What themes are at the heart of the novel?
2. Did you relate to any of the workplace dynamics and practices? How did the author’s representation of the publishing industry compare with your perception of it?
3. “We’re losing our feeling of being a family and becoming just like everywhere else.”
To what extent are the employees like a family? Do you think The House of Marvellous Books publishing company could become like “everywhere else”?
4. Discuss the aptness of the company name.
5. According to Drusilla, “When you commission a work, you’re placing faith in something that isn’t there, pulling it out of nowhere, like Prospero”. Before reading this novel, had you considered commissioning and publishing books as being an act of faith?
6. “I suppose it’s worth holding onto that slender hope”. So says Mortimer in relation to the possibility of having his poems published someday. To what extent is The House of Marvellous Books about holding onto hope - both the publishing house, and the novel?
7. “Got dressed and turned on my phone to find a text from my father sent late last night saying it wasn’t a convenient time for me to visit this weekend”.
Compare Mortimer’s relationship with his father and Uncle Albany. Why do you think he’s closer to his uncle?
8. What’s the significance of Mortimer reading Proust?
9. How likeable did you find the characters? Which characters were most memorable and convincing? Discuss the author’s characterisation skills.
10. How does the author create humour?
11. Did any comparable writers or books come to mind while you were reading The House of Marvellous Books?
12. Were you shocked by the succession of losses towards the end, or did they feel in keeping with the preceding narrative? Did the novel have the outcome you expected? How did you feel when you finished reading it?