A NARROW DOOR is the third of my novels featuring Roy Straitley, the Latin master, and the community of St Oswald’s Grammar School, although it can be read alone. If you’re studying it as part of a reading group, here are a few resources and ideas to get you started.
Railway tunnels feature strongly in this book. Find out about some of the longest ones here.
St Oswald’s is finally admitting girls to the School. Here’s an article about the pros and cons of single-sex versus co-ed schools.
Need themed snacks for your reading group? Here’s a link to a quick recipe for these delicious Liquorice Allsorts no-bake slices…
Questions for group discussion:
- Like the previous books, A NARROW DOOR is a kind of chess match between Straitley and his adversary – in this case, the new Head, Rebecca Buckfast. How does this illustrate their relationship?
- Rebecca’s brother Conrad disappeared when she was very small. In what way do you think this has affected her relationships and friendships in adulthood?
- Why do you think Rebecca’s parents had so little interest in her as a child? Do you feel sympathy for their situation?
- Dominic Buckfast “rescues” the young Becky Price and her daughter from financial difficulty and makes them a part of his life. How does she feel about this? Why does she accept?
- Why do you think Becky might have difficulty getting used to Dominic’s family?
- How does Dominic’s protectiveness towards Becky and her daughter contribute to her attitude towards men in general?
- Joining King Henry’s Grammar School is a challenge for the young Becky. In what ways does she meet this challenge? What aspects of her personality come to the surface?
- Why do you think Becky meets with such hostility from the male staff of King Henry’s?
- This book has a strong supernatural element. Why do you think the author chose to introduce this?
- Why do you think Straitley allows Rebecca to prevent him from going to the police, following the discovery of the body by the Gunderson Building?
- Straitley has a genuine affection for his “Brodie Boys”. What do you think they represent to him?
- Rebecca chooses to tell Straitley her story – a story she has not told anyone before. Why do you think this is?
- What do you think Becky’s childhood monster – Mr Smallface – represents?
- Benedicta Wild – Ben – is a trans pupil. Why do you think the author chose to include a trans character in this book, and how does Ben’s decision to reveal this affect Straitley?
- How has the death of Eric Scoones – and his subsequent exposure as an abuser of his pupils – affected Straitley?
- What is Straitley’s reaction to the changes in St Oswald’s, especially the introduction of girls? How does this prepare him for Rebecca Buckfast’s story?
- Like DIFFERENT CLASS, A NARROW DOOR plays with the idea of memory and its potential unreliability. How have Becky’s early experiences affected the way she remembers her brother?
- We are told from the very start that Rebecca is a murderer. Do you find yourself hating her, or tacitly rooting for her during the unfolding of her tale? Why?
- Rebecca sees herself as Scheherazade. Why?
- Ultimately, every man in Rebecca’s life has let her down. In what way does this affect her dealings with Straitley?