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Reading Group Questions for Book Clubs: The Philosopher’s Daughters

For readers who belong to a book club, here are a few questions that might help kick off a lively discussion about The Philosopher’s Daughters.

1. Who is your favourite character in the book and why?

2. The two sisters, Harriet and Sarah, are the main protagonists and for much of the novel they are living in the same location. The story is written from each of their viewpoints. What do you think these dual perspectives contribute to the story?

3. The sisters are very different characters. Compare and contrast their similarities and differences.

4. Harriet and Sarah were treated differently by their widowed father as they grew up. Consider how important their father was to the development of each.

5. The novel is set in the 1890s in London and in the Northern Territory of South Australia, and much of the action takes place in the wild and beautiful Australian landscape. Compare and contrast these different environments and consider what they contribute to the narrative and to the sisters’ character development.

6. One of the book’s themes is the importance of women’s suffrage, a cause to which the entire Cameron family is committed. Discuss how this theme is reflected in the principal characters’ choices.

7. How does this feminist background contribute to Harriet and Sarah’s reactions to the racism and frontier violence accompanying the expansion of the cattle industry?

8. How important is the scene of the cricket match near Port Darwin to the arc of the story?

9. The principal male characters are the young women’s father (the philosopher of the title), and Henry and Mick. In different ways these men influence the choices and growth of the young women. How do you think Henry and Mick were themselves affected by the sisters?


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