The Silence ProjectThe nature of cults, the power of listening, and the depth of mother-daughter relationships  — if ever there was a novel suited to lively book group discussions, The Silence Project is that novel.

By turns unexpected and shocking, gripping and moving, and always thought-provoking, it’s the kind of story that’ll set you thinking about how you’d respond to such an extraordinary situation, and have you asking big questions about social change, social movements, and the nature of big organisations. It’s also a thrilling page-turner with emotional depth.

Read on for some topics to kickstart your book club discussions about The Silence Project. For more ideas, browse our book club recommendations category, and explore more discussion questions.

1. “No matter what she did, Rachel was very human. She was deeply flawed and deeply courageous. She was a bad person and a good one. She was also my mother”. How does this early excerpt set out the novel’s themes? Do you agree with Emilia’s assessment of her mother?

2. “I don’t know if it ever occurred to my mother just how lucky she was that she had Dad, Gran and me”. Is there any evidence that Rachel realised she was lucky to have them? Could they have done more for her?

3. Discuss connections between the rise of the Community and major global disasters. 

4. What does the rapid expansion of the Community reveal about our world? And what does the “brutal” backlash against it reveal? 

5. How did you feel when the “mob” arrived to intervene, claiming “It’s for your own good”? Was it for the good of the women?  Why did the mob think the women needed to be saved? What did they think they were saving them from?

6. “Action born of anger can never be positive. Our world needed positive action. And that can only happen if we stop shouting. First, we must fall silent. Then we must listen to others. Only when we hear others, will we ourselves be heard”

Discuss this excerpt and the Community’s “Shhh… Talk less, listen more” slogan. Do you agree with the opinion expressed in the excerpt? Or is the movement a “post-modern, feminist production of the Emperor’s New Clothes”, as one early press detractor suggested?

7. “The current generation of politicians… are so in love with the sound of their own voices, they can no longer hear ours”. Discuss the political resonance of Rachel’s movement.

8. In the words of one detractor, “Rachel’s legacy is pure evil”.  Is Rachel culpable for what her act of silence led to?

9. “Rachel’s silence was a weapon”. Discuss. In what sense might silence be considered a weapon?

10. “She remained a stalwart in the Chalkham camp and one of my Mum’s fiercest supporters. Gran never questioned Mum’s choices”. Why do you think Gran remained so loyal?

11. Were you surprised when Emilia took a job in the Community after the Event? Were you surprised the Event attracted “countless” new members?

12. Discuss the cultural imperialism of the Community’s work in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

13. How do you feel about the euthCare programme? Do you agree with Emelia that it’s “stunning in ambition, diabolical in intention”?

14. “Finally, I am able to say that I am proud of my mother.” What did you think of the way the novel ended?

15. Community members are described as women who “wanted to be heard”. Is this a feminist novel?

16. Why do you think the author wrote The Silence Project? What did you take from reading it?