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Book club questions for Triumph: Collected Stories….
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- Triumph is a collection of 14 stories, some with young women and others featuring girls and mothers. The young women’s stories are somewhat more cynical or sardonic, but the girls and mothers’ stories seem innocent on the surface with some dark themes beneath. Which half of the collection did you enjoy more? Which story had the biggest impact on you?
- The female protagonists don’t seem too attached to finding a man – they’re more exploring their own worlds – with the exception of Krista – why do you think Krista is so determined to find a new boyfriend? Why do you think this is the first story of the collection? Do you think the characters move from Krista’s position into other positions for any particular reason?
- The young girl, Skye, narrates three stories as a 6-7 year old: about going into a bone cave, walking uphill at school for a tsunami evacuation drill and about her birthday evening where her brother Leo falls off a balcony; and one story from an older perspective: about the weddings of her big sisters. Why do you think Skye gets to narrate so many stories and in what ways is she marked by each story to arrive at the perspective she has in Skye 3 the family wedding story?
- The mother, Faye, has two stories: about Leo falling in the pool and a failed Christmas lunch. In both she is preoccupied with cooking – how do you think food is used in these stories? Do you ever find yourself using food in the same way to convey love or connect people?
- A few stories are somewhat chilling: Stephanie about the bed & breakfast home with Val the owner, and the two stories with Betty and Alabama feature young women on dark streets where a sense of menace seems to threaten them. Did you find these characters more threatened or threatening? Were you worried for any of the characters or more bemused/horrified at their behaviour? Did any stories feel like situations you’ve experienced?
- Which story did you find most surprising or memorable in the book? Did it change the way you feel about aspects of your own life such as growing up, being responsible, commitment to people around you, finding your place in the world? Did any characters give you a sense they were living in a different way to the expected and if so, was that appealing or disturbing to you?
- The title, Triumph, relates to the car that crashes on a dark road and eventually gets taken to the wreckers to be destroyed. How else did the word “triumph” echo through the stories and how appropriate do you find this title as summing up the ultimate meaning of the collection?
- The stories are set in New Zealand, India, Rome, Amsterdam, Paris and Canada – how much did setting matter in the stories – did you feel as if you had travelled to these places? How well or not well were the settings evoked and used to further any themes such as isolation or anti-heroism?
- One book reviewer said of Triumph: It was as if Harwood hovered above the earth and randomly choose a handful of women from across the globe, then imagined what would a day or weekend look like for them? Which leads one to wonder that while Harwood’s stories are fiction, how far from the truth are they really? Did you wonder how “true” the stories were or feel that certain ones were more based on fact than fiction? Does this question matter or detract from how you enjoy the book?
- If you were to pick one narrator as most like yourself, who would you be? Krista, Lily, Anon in Rome, Anon in Paris, Stephanie, Betty or Alabama, Skye, Faye or Ingrid?
- If you wanted to read another book by Lizzie Harwood would you enjoy the darker stories of young women or the innocent-yet-weird stories of family members? Or something completely different?