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A Note in the Margin (A Note in the Margin, #1)
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Book of the Month - March > A Note in the Margin Discussion questions

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Dreamspinner Press (dreamspinnerpress) | 2637 comments Mod
Here are the discussion questions for A Note in the Margin this month. Discussion is not in any way limited to these questions, but we hope you will find them thought-provoking (and discussion-provoking). Please reference at least the question number in your reply so everyone will know what topic you're discussing.


Study Guide
A Note in the Margin by Isabelle Rowan

1. The narrative opens with John looking at Margins bookshop through the café window. Why doesn’t the story open in the shop itself?

2. How is the world within Margins created in chapter one?

3. Our introduction to John sets him up as an unsympathetic and unlikable character. Some readers initially struggled to accept him as one of the protagonists. Do you think that the conventions of the romance genre require main characters to be likable?

4. How is David’s character (and pathos) established in the opening chapter of the book?

5. “For some reason those eyes disconcerted John and he didn’t hold the man’s look. Perhaps he was a reminder of another path, a ‘there but for the grace of God’ type of thing….” p.7
- In what way could this be a clue into John’s past or present?

6. Why didn’t John throw David out of Margins on the first or even second day?

7. Even though he is not part of the pairing of the story, Jamie has been described as the heart of the book – what do you think that means? Do you agree?

8. Why did John initiate sex with David so early in their relationship? What do their responses say about their mindsets at that stage of the story?

9. How do the sex scenes in A Note in the Margin depict the stages of each character’s journey?

10. Family is a major theme throughout the book. How does John’s journey parallel Adam’s?

11. How are daily routines and the need for them used by characters within the book? E.g.: making tea, sorting books, sharing sandwiches, etc.

12. What could the second hand books represent to David? Consider not only his haven in Margins, but also ‘purgatory’ in the library and the shelf in the homeless shelter.

13. What do you believe is a major turning point in David’s story?

14. What could David’s backpack symbolize? How does the use of the backpack impact on both David and John?

15. A major criticism of the book is the changing point of view. Even though it is not seen as technically correct, it was chosen intentionally. In what ways do multiple points of view enhance and/or detract from the overall story?

16. Who do you believe is the hero of the book? Why?

17. Did you find the ending satisfying even though it was not completely a happily ever after? Do you believe there is hope for the characters that inhabit Margins?

18. Are there any sections of the novel that have stayed with you?


Emanuela ~plastic duck~ (manutwo) | 42 comments I loved this book.

RE question #12.

I liked that there is a sort of parallel between the way Margins saves second-hand books, trying to restore the order of series, giving the books a chance of being read and loved again and giving David the means to feel like a real person again, being considered and respected.

There is also a virtuous circle: the shop saves second-hand books and through them helps David, but later David finds his mission in rescuing books from the library to be given to the homeless shelter.

I feel quite naive maybe because I want to believe that an act of kindness bears its fruits; that what we are not able to value anymore (be it an object or even a person) might be a treasure for someone else; that an apparently trivial thing as a book can lift us up in the darkest moments. For these reasons I think this is an inspirational story.

RE Question #15.

I was also not very enthusiast about the changing POV, but it's a personal preference. When the POV shifts many times in a story I prefer that it happens with a sort of rhythm, because I don't like very much having to go back and re-read because I missed the changing. I am not a native speaker, so subtle hints might elude me.

RE Question # 17.

I felt that the ending was honest. A too perfect ending nicely wrapped up would be too unbelievable, in my opinion. I want to believe that there's hope for the characters, because I think John is determined and I think David wants to re-affirm his own self once again. I don't think it will be easy or that David won't have another crisis, but he has more reasons to stay and go on.


Susan | 19 comments Question 3

I did find it hard to empathise with John at the beginning of the story. He seemed arrogant and judgemental but there was still something there that made me not want to write him off too soon. The reader definitely relies on the author to offer some sort of clues or tiny insights into a character's mind, proving to them in a way that the journey will be worth the emotional investment. Too many romance novels offer an alpha hero with a perfect body but with nothing else interesting to offer. I believe there will always be a place for the journey of a flawed hero as long as readers can be enticed into taking those first steps.

Question 16

I don't believe the story has a hero as such, not in the traditional sense. Each of the men who play a part in it are flawed in their own unique ways making them more human and more believable as characters.

Question 17

I completely agree with Emanuela about the ending. I spent most of the book with my heart in my mouth waiting for something else to happen that would make David run from John, so to end the book with everything being perfect would have been a disappointment. As she also mentions, hope is particularly important and I think it played a huge part in this story. At the end of the day hope is often all we are left with and although life won't be perfect for John and David I choose to believe they will continue to hope together.


message 4: by Isabelle (new)

Isabelle Rowan (IsabelleRowan) | 19 comments Hi Emanuela! Thank you for taking the time to answer some of the questions! I esecially enjoyed your comments for Qu 12.

I originally trained as a librarian so books have a special place in my heart and I saw first hand how important they can be to people.

Your comment - "There is also a virtuous circle: the shop saves second-hand books and through them helps David, but later David finds his mission in rescuing books from the library to be given to the homeless shelter" is exactly how I saw it. I believe that everything has its place in the universe and we are all connected in some way. What we see as a small kindness can mean so much to someone else.

When David took the books to the shelter he was also giving the homeless men dignity. Hopefully I can continue that in the next sequel about Jamie.

Q 15 - I wanted to try the changing POV because so much of the story takes place as thoughts and feelings of all the characters involved. I knew it wouldn't be popular with a lot of people so in Twelve Days I toned it down a lot even though I still do it. ;)

Q 17 - As much as I wanted it to be happy for them all, it wouldn't have realistic. Both John and David are still going through their journey, but at least they have each other now.

Izzy


message 5: by Isabelle (new)

Isabelle Rowan (IsabelleRowan) | 19 comments Hi Susan! I really enjoyed reading your comments and thank you so much for supporting the book chat!

Question 3 - you know, when I was writing Margins it didn't even occur to me that some readers wouldn't like John, but then again I had an insight into the person he would become. My first realisation came when someone commented that they didn't want to continue with the book because they didn't like the main character. That really surprised me! I love flawed characters and if an MC is perfect at the start of the story where do they go? For a while with a new WIP I started to second guess myself and make an MC a more sympathetic character then thought, nope, I have to listen to the muses!

Q 16 - When I started writing, David was going to be the main character and it was all going to be his story, but I quickly understood that it had to become an ensemble cast. John had his journey and to a lesser extent so did Jamie (more to come there).

Q 17 - That's why I tried to leave it open ended. Not hearts and flowers, but the last line gave hope. :)

Izzy


Susan | 19 comments Isabelle wrote: "Hi Susan! I really enjoyed reading your comments and thank you so much for supporting the book chat!

Question 3 - you know, when I was writing Margins it didn't even occur to me that some readers ..."


Thanks, Izzy.

Q3 I just wanted to add that I think that as the story progressed and the reader was able to watch John struggle with his feelings, that he definitely became more likeable. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that flawed characters are more interesting. Sometimes, for me, it is the unlikeable characters that can make me love a book. When a writer creates characters who can inspire strong emotion in a reader, whether it be positive or negative, then the book will always be worth reading in my opinion.

So happy to hear that there is more to come about Jamie :)


Emanuela ~plastic duck~ (manutwo) | 42 comments Isabelle wrote: "I originally trained as a librarian so books have a special place in my heart and I saw first hand how important they can be to people."

Hi Izzy!

Sometimes I think I overestimate the power of books, but I've always found relief and shelter in them when I've needed it, so this story really clicked with me :)

Susan wrote: "So happy to hear that there is more to come about Jamie :)"

Me too.

John wasn't an easy character to like, not only in the beginning, because as readers I think we could see that David was weak and had to be protected somehow, but John was probably having a normal reaction to what David was and what David did. It's very hard to be sympathetic when we don't understand someone's issues. At the beginning Jaime was the character expressing our compassion as readers, when John, who was inside the story, couldn't feel it. When John kept me distant, Jaime was able to suck me back into the story. It was a beautiful dynamics, I think.

I look forward to Jaime's story because I'd like to see him not being so nice, he's so perfect :D


Diane (Diall68) | 36 comments I loved this book and if there is a book coming about Jamie, I think that would be another great journey!

RE Question 3
I don't think lead characters have to be likable, although I do think it helps to see some possibilities to them because you want to care about them in some way, at least I find that for myself, and in this case, because John is not as instantly likable as Jamie, you appreciate his journey even more.

RE Question 7
I agree that Jamie is the heart of the story because he is the common denominator, David trusts him, John eventually does, but first is influenced by his open attitude to people and life, Barbara meets him and likes him, he introduces himself to Adam before David reconnects with him, he's Maggie's son so he connects to pretty much every character! He's a great character and much wiser than anyone assumes upon meeting him!

RE Question 13
I think there are a couple of major turning points for David, but the one that sticks with me the most, is when he was approached in the toilet and stated that was not him anymore, then when that sets him off, he actually works through it without going back to all his survival mode habits and goes back to John.

RE Question 16
I think all the characters are heroes at some point in the book because they all help move the story forward, help support David and John and it takes all of them, to be there and support one another, including Adam wanting to understand and get his father back in his life.

RE Question 17
I felt the ending was very satisfying, as already stated, it is very real, and in my review, I said you don't want it to end, but there is so much potential for the characters, that you are happy with that as well!

I would recommend this book to anyone and look forward to reading more from this author!


message 9: by Isabelle (new)

Isabelle Rowan (IsabelleRowan) | 19 comments I hope I got my timing right! It's 9am on Saturday morning here in Australia. The sun is shining, but the clouds out the back window are dark with a rainbow so there might be a change on the way.

Please feel free to ask me any questions or make comments about A Note in the Margin.

Izzy


message 10: by Isabelle (new)

Isabelle Rowan (IsabelleRowan) | 19 comments Diane! Thank you for recommending Margins and taking the time to comment on the questions.

Yes, John's journey was a tough one - I didn't plan to focus as much on him, but the more I wrote the more he 'told' me. In the end a lot of what he'd gone through seemed to match Adam.

Jamie started as one of those background characters, but refused to stay there! He was the most fun to write and became a kind of Greek chorus - does that make sense? I look forward to writing him again.

The scene with David in the toilet at the market was written quickly and I wasn't sure if it worked, but I hoped his strength at that point came through. Thank you for choosing that scene!

Izzy


message 11: by Isabelle (new)

Isabelle Rowan (IsabelleRowan) | 19 comments Me again Diane commenting on a few more of your answers!

"I think all the characters are heroes at some point in the book..." I really appreciated that comment and liked the idea that the hero can change and that there can be more than one hero in a story. Someone told me once that I needed to define more clearly who the hero was - my response was why? Doesn't real life have a broad cast? I believe books can too. ;)

I have a few works in progress, one of which is book 3 in the Margins world and it will centre more on Jamie.

Izzy


Janey Temple (janeyt) | 1 comments 8. The first time I read A Note in The Margin the sex scene bothered me a bit because it seemed too soon. But the second time I read it I figured out that John didn't know how else to connect to people. He did that with Jamie. I don't think David knew how to say no at that stage of his life.


message 13: by Isabelle (new)

Isabelle Rowan (IsabelleRowan) | 19 comments Janey wrote: "8. The first time I read A Note in The Margin the sex scene bothered me a bit because it seemed too soon. But the second time I read it I figured out that John didn't know how else to connect to pe..."

Hi Janey! That's how I saw it. John struggled to communicate and sex was how he could connect (great word btw) without allowing himself to be emotionally involved - or so he thought!


Zahra (zahraowens) | 78 comments Hi Izzy!
Just stopping by to congratulate you for having a Book of the month! It's so worth it. You know how much I love this book! From its first origins to its publication!


message 15: by Isabelle (new)

Isabelle Rowan (IsabelleRowan) | 19 comments Zahra wrote: "Hi Izzy!
Just stopping by to congratulate you for having a Book of the month! It's so worth it. You know how much I love this book! From its first origins to its publication!"


Wheeeee! Thank you! You were the one who encouraged me to try publishing it. *hugs* Can't wait to see you at the GayRomLit retreat!


message 16: by Isabelle (new)

Isabelle Rowan (IsabelleRowan) | 19 comments Lunchtime in Oz, but feel free to drop by here anytime and comment or ask a question!


message 17: by Susinok (last edited Mar 31, 2012 08:26PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Susinok Isabelle, I loved this book and it's sequel Twelve Days. I loved John and David even though David breaks my heart. But I also love that he isn't magically healed by all of this. Everything is still a struggle for him. It's so much more realistic.

I'm looking forward to Jaimie's book too.


Anna D. | 4 comments Fast forward 2+ years... When is Jaime's book coming out??


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