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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

The Glass Ocean

1. When we first see Tess, she’s posing as an Irish maid, and then on the Lusitania she’s an English country girl returning home. How does Tess pull off each persona? Do we see other characters assuming roles that aren’t entirely genuine?

2. Caroline’s husband Gilbert is embarrassed by her hint that she might like to make love: “You’re so refined. And when you that, it makes me think that my coarser upbringing has somehow rubbed off on you like so much coal dust.” Caroline is infuriated. Were you? What does this scene tell us about their partnership?

3. Tess tells us her father’s golden rule: “When in doubt, run. It didn’t much matter where you were running to, just so long as you kept going. And going. Because while you were running, you couldn’t think of where you’d come from or where you might land.” Is this good advice? Has this rule served Tess well?

4. When she begins her research into the Langford family history, Sarah assures John Langford that he can trust her. Should he? What are her motives? What are his?

5. What do you make of Caroline and Robert’s love affair? Did you expect them to end up together after they survive the sinking of the Lusitania?

6. Sarah tells John Langford that her mother’s dementia gives her a great sense of urgency: “I need to know the truth, I need to know everything before it’s too late. You’re always better off knowing.” Do you believe that too? What consequences were there to uncovering the truth about the Lusitania, and the Langfords?

7. Caroline remembers “what her mother had taught her about being a woman: Appear to be weak and docile when it suites, but never forget that a soft and gentle outer appearance simply masks a spine of steel.” Did that make sense for women in 1915? What about today?

8. In the Epilogue, Sarah says “We’re all looking for something, aren’t we? Every last one of us looking in vain, looking with futile, unassailable hope for something we’ve lost.” Was this true for the characters in this novel? Which ones find what they’re looking for? Which were disappointed?

9. Were you satisfied with how things turned out for each of the heroines? Whose life took the most surprising twist? Would you have rewritten the ending for any of them?

The Glass Ocean
by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White