The Little Red Chairs

By Edna O'Brien
Genre: Literary Fiction
Buy Now This book is on reading list for December 2016

Discussion Questions

  1. The novel has two epigraphs: “An individual is no match for history,” and “The wolf is entitled to the lamb.” What is the significance of these two quotations, and how can they be interpreted after the novel is read?
  2. Prior to opening the story, O’Brien provides historical context. Given that she describes the little red chairs on page 68, why do you think she wants us to have this factual information before starting the book?
  3. Who is the heroine of the novel? What is the arc of her struggle?
  4. How does O’Brien bring the old world together with the new world? What is the impact on the reader of the idyllic village of Cloonoila as it is exposed to the evil of the outside world?
  5. In what ways does the novel feel like a fairy tale?
  6. Why does Sister Bonaventure decide to become Dr. Vlad’s guinea pig? What does this say about Catholicism in general and this community in particular?
  7. Consider the two dream sequences in the novel. The first is Vlad’s memories of K, and the second is Fidelma’s imagined conjugal visit with Vlad. What do these dreams represent, and why are they important?
  8. How does this novel address the vulnerability of women and refugees? What is its relevance in 2016? Is justice ultimately done or is it merely symbolic?
  9. There are omens and foreshadowing from the first page of the book. Were you aware of these while you were reading, or did it take a second reading to fully appreciate the author’s craft?
  10. Does Fidelma need to atone for her adultery? How does she find redemption?
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