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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

Talking to the Dead

1. Nina's mention of the death of Colin early on in the novel alluded to foul play and set the stage for the reader's delicate scrutiny of Nina and Isabel's role in the incident. How did you interpret the passage? How and why did your perceptions change throughout the course of the novel?

2. Reflecting on their childhood, Nina explained the way that she and Isabel marveled at their personality differences. Growing up, each sister played upon her variance from the other as if it were "a game that eventually played us," as Nina says. What did Nina mean by this? How were the sisters "played" by this game? What role has each sister assumed in their relationship?

3. Richard and Edward figure prominently in the novel in that they extract unique information about Nina and Isabel. What do these men bring out of each of the sisters?

4. What does Nina's sensuousness in food and sex symbolize? Contrast this with Isabel's anorexia and frigidity.

5. What role does the climate, especially the heat, play in the story?

6. Our understanding of story is often molded by the point of view from which it is told. Discuss how you think the portrayal of the characters, and the depiction of specific scenes throughout the story would vary if told from Isabel's perspective?

7. What is the significance of the final scene?

Talking to the Dead
by Helen Dunmore

  • Publication Date: June 1, 1998
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books
  • ISBN-10: 0316196452
  • ISBN-13: 9780316196451