THE STRAWBERRY THIEF: Readers’ group guide

Are you reading THE STRAWBERRY THIEF as part of a readers’ group? Here are some questions and resources to help get you started. Warning: questions may contain spoilers, so make sure you read the book first, if you care about that kind of thing…

Background resources.

One of the recurring visuals in this novel is William Morris’ Strawberry Thief design. Find out more about it here.

Want to know more about the history of tattooing? Click here to find out!

An old traditional French/Canadian folk song acts as a leitmotif in the book. Find out more about its meaning and origin here.

Vianne’s story is closely linked to the history and folklore of chocolate. Find out more about it here.

Fancy a tipple? Here’s a link to some delicious chocolate cocktail recipes you can use to get your readers’ group in the mood…

Questions for discussion.

  1. What do you think is the significance of Rosette’s “secret voice”? Why does it have to be secret?
  2. Why do you think the unconventional Vianne is so very protective of her daughters?
  3. What is the significance of the changing wind to Vianne? How does Rosette’s attitude to it differ from her mother’s?
  4. In this book, Vianne is an accepted member of the village community, and Morgane is the outsider. Why then is Vianne so suspicious of her?
  5. In what way does Morgane’s arrival change the chemistry of the village community?
  6. Why do you think the author chose to give Morgane prosthetic feet? What effect does this have on the way people see her?
  7. In what ways do Morgane’s designs reveal her clients’ secrets?
  8. In what way has Reynaud’s feelings of guilt over the events of his past affected the way in which he behaves and relates to other people?
  9. Why do you think Narcisse left his confession to Reynaud?
  10. What is the importance of Narcisse’s confession – to Reynaud, to Vianne, to the Montour family and to Rosette – as the story develops?
  11. The strawberry is a powerful symbol in this book. What does it mean to each of the main characters?
  12. What do you think Vianne’s tattoo means to her, and how will this affect her relationships?
  13. Rosette’s “imaginary friend”, Bam, expresses feelings that Rosette herself is not always able to express.¬† In what ways do the other main characters express their innermost feelings?
  14. The theme of the outsider is central to this novel. In what way is belonging important to: Vianne? Rosette? Morgane? Reynaud?
  15. Why do you think that Narcisse sees his little sister, Mimi, in Rosette?
  16. The theme of marking is important in this novel. People are marked by: their experiences, the past, grief, and by the physical process of tattooing. How does the author bring out this theme for each of the main characters? What do you think has marked you most in your life?
  17. A number of the child characters in this book stand out because of their physical and neurological differences. Why has the author chosen to focus on this, and what do you think the effect of it is?
  18. Narcisse’s confession is a catalyst for Reynaud’s redemption, allowing him to move on at last from the events of his past. What do you think he will do now?
  19.  Vianne is bereft when Anouk moves away. To what extent do you think this novel is a story about dealing with the loss of a child?
  20. The senses play an important role in this novel. In what ways does the author use scent, taste and colours to evoke different ideas and sesations?